Caye Caulker Lobster Festival: Original and Creative
Thursday, July 7th, 2016
The Caye Caulker Lobster Festival is the original festival that annually celebrates the Caribbean Spiny Lobster (Panulirus argus). Traditionally, the festival begins with the choosing of Miss Lobster Fest on Friday night, followed by fabulous parties throughout the rest of the weekend. However, 2016 was different, and on Friday, July 1st, organizers focused on the tasty lobster in the first-ever Lobster Cook-Off.
Sponsored by Grace Kennedy Belize Limited, the cook-off had four teams of two preparing a lobster appetizer. After the first round of tasting, one team would be knocked out of the competition, and the remaining three teams would move on to the entrée round. Registered for the competition were teams Sip N Dip, Dirty McNasty, La Isla Cariñosa Academy and Team Hope. Providing some truly fun commentary was Belizean personality William Neal, who kept the crowd enthused all evening. Providing soothing sounds in the background was the Dynamix Steel Pan Ensemble.
Tasked with judging the event were Michael Joseph, Wayne Austin Garbutt Jr. and Marcelo Blake. As the crowd cheered on the cooks, 20 minutes were set for the appetizer round. Lobster meat was the only protein allowed in this round, and the cooks and their helper quickly chopped, blended and mixed up their first entry. Sip n Dip served Lobster Balls, while Dirty McNasty had Cajun Lobster Bites alongside a virgin piña colada. La Isla Cariñosa Academy made Popcorn Lobster with a BBQ-Jerk sauce, and Team Hope made Lobster fritters “like Mama used to make.”
After tasting and judging, the judges decided to cut Team Hope from the competition. The second round of cooking began, and it had a twist. There were three mystery (Grace) items in the teams’ baskets, and they all had to use two out of the three. The items were: Browning Sauce, Canned Tuna and Corned Beef. All teams got right to work, with 40 minutes to prepare one delicious entrée with two sides for the judges. Lobster tails turned red over the heat, and pans sizzled as each cook furiously worked on preparing one delicious platter. With 10 minutes to spare, each of the teams had their meals ready – after all, lobster does not take that long to cook perfectly!
Artfully garnished lobster dishes made their way to the judges, who took bites and wrote down their notes for the tabulators. All the teams applied the browning sauce to their dish, with Team Dirty McNasty prepping a lobster stuffed with a shrimp and tuna hash. Team Sip N Dip presented pineapple lobster served on a hollowed-out pineapple atop a green salad, while Team La Isla Cariñosa Academy presented a broiled lobster tail topped with corn beef bits and brown sauce, with a side of mashed potatoes and vegetables sautéed in (Grace) coconut water.
In third place, taking $200 cash and a Grace gift basket was Team Sip N Dip, while second place went to Team Dirty McNasty. They walked off with $300 cash, one portable stove and a Grace gift basket. First place went to the crowd favorite, La Isla Cariñosa Academy, who walked off with $500 cash, two portable stoves and a Grace gift basket. Congratulations to all the participants, and kudos to the organizers for pulling off one incredible competition without a hitch!
After the competition and cooking stations had been cleared, islanders and visitors alike crowded the stage area where Belize’s Queen of Soca, the inimitable Ernestine Carballo would perform. Full of energy and verve, Ernestine sang some of her biggest hits, even bringing some audience members onstage to join in the dancing and camaraderie.
Children and adults alike sang along to her patriotic hits, dancing and getting into the spirit of celebration. Ernestine’s energy was contagious, setting the vibe for a fabulous Lobster Festival weekend in Caye Caulker!
On the second day of the Caye Caulker Lobster Festival, Palapa Gardens was the place to be for an all-day beach party. With food booths providing scrumptious lobster treats and skilled bartenders keeping the crowd properly refreshed, the party was non-stop.
Events for Saturday, July 2nd started with the Lobster Competition. Prizes were awarded to the fisherman who brought in the largest lobster and the biggest lobster catch. Immediately after the completion, attendees flocked the beach for the Color Explosion Powder Party. With colorful powders on hand, party goers reveled under the sun to the dynamic beats of Miss Linda Blease. The Powder Party went on until 6PM, coloring the beach and its attendees in all hues of the rainbow.
After a short clean up break, the gates opened up once again for the Dancing Under the Influence event. The music was pumping loud as the night went by, and revelers cheered on DJ Crown Prince as he took to the stage. Representing Dubai, Miami and St. Lucia, DJ Crown Prince brought a new level of entertainment to the island. The party was so hyped that it went on until 5AM the next morning.
Another highlight of the Caye Caulker Lobster Fest was their Lion Fish Tournament held on Sunday, July 3rd. The competition to continue the fight against this invasive species which is destroying the juvenile fish population of the Belize marine eco systems saw two competitors who from early in the day headed out to the sea to hunt the most, the largest and the smallest of these predators.
With great cash and other prizes it was enough to convince participants to head out and catch some lion fish! The weigh in and measurement station was opened around 2:30PM and after all the catches had been measured and weighed, the respective winners were announced. Well known Caye Caulker fisherman Miguel Moreno won the prize for the most lion fish (48) and for the largest as well (13 ¼”). He walked away with a grand total cash prize of $625 and two cases of Belikin Beer. Claiming the prize for the smallest lion fish (3”) was Shedrack Ash, who caught a total of 27 lion fish. He won a cash prize of $125 and a case of Belikin Beer.
A total of 75 lion fish were caught, and even though the number may not be that much it has created a dent on the population on this highly invasive species.
Lionfish are a highly invasive species and after the first confirmed sighting of a lionfish in Belize in December 2008, the Belize Fisheries Department and other local agencies have raise awareness on the problems that are anticipated as a result of the increasing number of lionfish in the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve Ecosystem.
The 2016 Caye Caulker Lobster Fest concluded with a fun dance party.
Organizers would like to thank all event sponsors, as well as all who attended and made the event a huge success.
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