A little before 8 p.m. the smoke was already coming from vendors’ grills, the scent of frying fish filled the air and music was playing. Children headed off smiling to the “Coney Island” amusement park with their parents. But it was the ribbon cutting that made it official: Friday was the opening night of the August Emancipation Festival.

An hour after the scheduled opening time of 8 p.m., government officials, Miss BVI Josefina Nunez, and Prince and Princess Requan and Elissa Minnott were seated on the stage, waiting to get the ceremony started. Then, a steel pan duo played the national anthem, “God Save the Queen.”

After speeches from government officials, students of the Elmore Stoutt High School Drama Society performed a play titled “Free At Last.” The play focused on the lives of slaves in the Caribbean before the Slavery Abolition Act was passed in 1833. Performers, dressed costumes with tiger-skin prints, performed an African dance, hugged each other, and celebrated.

In remarks to the gathering, Elvis Harrigan (R-D5) encouraged residents to have a safe and crime-free emancipation celebration. “This year is not different than other years. Let us continue in 2010 to extend that,” he said.

Education and Culture Minister Andrew Fahie also addressed attendees. “As a Caribbean people, we need to be proud that we are free,” Mr. Fahie said. The minister added that freedom comes with responsibility, and urged residents to take care of the facilities at the village.

On Tuesday, Colin Scatliffe, chairman of the Virgin Islands Festival and Fairs Committee, said that the festivities were proceeding as planned. “So far everything is going okay,” he said.