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Crooked Tree hosts its 36th Annual Cashew Fest

by Kristen Ku

CROOKED TREE VILLAGE, Belize District, Mon. May 15, 2023

May is here, and for many, it brings with it different cultural celebrations, such as Cinco de Mayo and Mother’s Day, but for Crooked Tree Village, May brings with it great anticipation for their biggest annual event, the Crooked Tree Cashew Festival and Agricultural Trade Show.

The two-day event, held on the second weekend of May, had initially begun in 1985 as a simple Belize District Agricultural Show in Sandhill Village, which later moved to Bermudian Landing Village the following year, until finally making its way to Crooked Tree Village in 1987. The Ministry of Agriculture’s original idea was to rotate the show every year to a different village, but due to cashew becoming the village’s main cash crop, the fruit was showcased in a Cashew Festival within the Crooked Tree Agricultural Trade Show, and as they say, the rest is history. The next year it was officially the Crooked Tree Cashew Festival and Agricultural Trade Show, and it has been held every year in Crooked Tree since then, except for the two-year interruption due to Covid-19.

This year, the village hosted its 36th running on May 13th and 14th at the Crooked Tree Show Grounds with its platinum sponsor being none other than the Belize Tourism Board, as the show aimed to also raise funds for the village.

It was an event you could not miss and according to residents, there were approximately 8,000 attendees from throughout the country, who traveled to experience the food and the endless products created from cashew, visit the livestock, dance to the beat of the Gilharry 7 band, and play countless games.

With over 20 commercial stalls, 20 food stalls, 6 kitchens, paintball shooting, bouncy houses, greasy poles, giveaways, and so much more, the turnout is believed to have been the largest to date, according to chairman, George Tillett.

“This year I think was the biggest success ever. As a matter of fact, the dance floor itself on Saturday night yielded a profit of over $7,000,” gushed Tillett.

Unfortunately, like all great things, some challenges encountered by the council included the heavy rains experienced on Sunday morning, which was normally one of their jam-packed days. Due to the lack of shelter in the field and the dangerous road for travelers, a lot of the expected visitors had to turn back, unable to make it.

There was also a lack of sufficient parking, which George says is a project that is already underway.

“Just this year we have acquired an acre of land that is beside the grounds that was shoved down and prepared to have been our parking lot, because we find that parking was getting congested, so we’re expanding the field …,” said Tillett.

Additionally, the high cost of policing—over $3,000 in advance—has affected the funds of the festival, which is something Tillett says he hopes the Ministry of Rural Transformation will change in the future as it is a “big bite out of our profit”, defeating the purpose of small communities conducting fundraisers like these.