EUSTATIUS–Princess Beatrix paid a one-day visit to St. Eustatius on Friday, December 13. The former queen of the Netherlands and mother of King Willem-Alexander arrived onboard a Winair aircraft around 8:30am.
At F.D. Roosevelt Airport the princess was welcomed by Government Commissioner Marcolino “Mike” Franco, Deputy Government Commissioner Mervyn Stegers, Acting Island Secretary Malvern Dijkshoorn-Lopes, Government commissioner’s executive assistant Marianne Schroen, other dignitaries and a welcoming committee.
Little Miss Statia/Junior Carnival Queen Melifanny de Palm presented princess Beatrix with a bouquet of flowers. A large crowd made up of schoolchildren, young adults and senior citizens were on hand to cheer the Dutch royal princess as she left the airport’s departure hall. The welcoming crowd cheered greetings, sang and waved flags as the Killy Band played a variety of music, old and new.
Princess Beatrix visited different organisations and spoke with representatives focussing on Statia’s nature protection and conservation projects, such as the Statia Earth Farm and Garden Foundation, Made in Statia Nursery and Greenhouse, St. Eustatius National Parks STENAPA, Caribbean Netherlands Science Institute (CNSI) and others.
After a brief tour of the farm, the princess was greeted by STENAPA director Erik Boman and other staff and board members from the various nature organizations.
While at the STENAPA office, the princess inquired about the endangered Lesser Antillean iguana. It was with a stroke of luck that the royal visitor and her entourage were able to glimpse one of the endangered reptiles in a tree inside the STENAPA boatyard.
At the Daughters of the King (DOTK), princess Beatrix viewed artwork made by children that attended the afterschool programme and she was treated to a rendition of children reciting the DOTK pledge and theme.
Statia’s oldest resident Sophia “Mary” Busby (100), director of Chapel Piece health and recreational centre Hilda Berkel and other seniors travelled to the DOTK building and spoke briefly with the visiting princess.
At the Mega D. Youth Foundation’s (MYF) clubhouse she was welcomed by a drum band and a performance by MYF entertainers. MYF director Dion “Mega D” Humphreys, staff members and the children attending the afterschool programme sang and interacted with their high-placed visitor.
The youth of Statia hosted a cultural manifestation at the Dutch Reformed Church, where then Queen Beatrix had laid the first stone for the church’s restoration on November 6, 1980.
As the entourage made their way to the church, the rain that was falling interminably throughout the day started to pick up, and the princess donned a rain poncho.
The princess and her entourage as well as Commissioner Franco were led inside the church grounds by Senior Carnival Queen Kentonea Fortin and Junior Carnival Queen De Palm, as the two young ladies threw flower petals on the ground in front of the dignitaries.
Princess Beatrix inspected the newly restored church as well as the cornerstone carrying her signature which is prominently displayed on the front of the historical building.
Performances by MYF, the Aloei Dancers and others were warmly received by those in attendance. During the third performance of the planned event, the heavens opened up. The remaining performances had to be scrapped from the programme as the rain started to pour and everyone ran for cover.
Princess Beatrix made her way to the airport, where she was treated to a final performance of the Killy Band. Clementina Wilmans (90) greeted the princess, after which the two ladies danced to the tunes of “Te La” and “Christmas Greetings.” The princess then sat down to listen to the Killy Band singing “We Too Glad,” composed in her honour by Walton Schmidt.
After saying goodbye to the members of the welcoming committee the princess and her entourage boarded a Winair aircraft and departed from Statia. Despite the heavy rain, a large crowd was on hand at the airport to bid princess Beatrix farewell and to wish her a safe journey home.