Sabans turned out in droves Friday to see King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima, who graced the island with their presence during the 2017 Saba Day celebrations.
Traditionally, the Saba Day celebrations are opened with an ecumenical church service, and this year’s 42nd edition was no exception.
After attending the service, which was held at Christ Church in The Bottom, the royal couple led a procession to the Governor’s residence, accompanied by Island Governor Jonathan Johnson and State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops.
After the hoisting of the Saba flag by the Island Governor and the singing of the flag song a cultural presentation was made to the visiting royals and guests on the grounds of the Governor’s residence.
The presentation focused on Saba’s culture and diversity and consisted of a teen quadrille dance, contemporary dance by Child Focus, and presentations by Sacred Heart School, life programme Skit and Friends of the Senior Citizens of Saba.
King Willem-Alexander addressed the crowd and thanked Saba for a “warm and heartfelt reception.” He visited Saba for the first time in 1987 when he was crown prince. Saba has become a part of his life since then, he said.
In their speeches, Governor Johnson and Commissioners Rolando Wilson and Bruce Zagers all referred to the island’s resilience in bouncing back so quickly after it was hit by two major hurricanes, Irma and Maria, in September. They all expressed their pride in the island’s quick recovery due to its residents who had come out to clean up and restore normalcy.
“Saba still going strong,” was the motto for this year’s Saba Day. Commissioner Wilson did not forget to thank the Dutch Marines and sister islands Curaçao and Aruba for their support. “And we are enormously grateful to the Dutch Government for assistance,” said Wilson.
Commissioner Zagers said that in making financial means available and in showing support in Saba’s recovery the Dutch Government had proven to be a trustworthy partner.
These words led to warm applause by the audience, followed by cheers after Zagers said that still much needs to be done to improve the lives of Sabans, such as an increase in the minimum wage, benefits and salaries.
As the Saba Day tradition has it, awards are handed out to Sabans who have made their mark. This year, Commissioner Wilson handed out awards to former Commissioner/Acting Island Governor/Member of Parliament Roy Smith and to the owners and staff of The Edge ferry, who have serviced Saba for 25 years. Other awards went to Sacred Heart Church stalwart Ronald Simmons and to former elementary school teacher Lucille Johnson.
After the King and Queen, with the assistance of Governor Johnson and Commissioner Wilson, had cut an enormous cake in the form of Saba’s flag, a bust of William “Will” Stanley Johnson was unveiled in front of the Government Administration Building.
The bust honouring the long-time politician, island historian and chronicler was made by sculptor Michael Maghiro and commissioned by Member of Parliament in St. Maarten Theo Heyliger.
After lunch, the royals attended a presentation by Saba Conservation Foundation at Queen’s Gardens Resort about nature conservation and the protection of coral reefs in particular.
In showing their support for the ailing dive industry in Saba and St. Eustatius, the King and Queen made a dive at Saba Bank. They ended their Saba Day visit with an informal dinner at Tropics Café.
King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima will leave for St. Maarten today, Saturday. They will arrive at Princess Juliana International Airport SXM at 10:00am. After a short welcome by Governor Eugene Holiday, the King and Queen will visit several locations on the island.
The Daily Herald.