The Daily Herald reports how charming King-Willem Alexander and elegant Queen Máxima, accompanied by Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk and their royal entourage, landed smoothly on the sunny runway of Juancho Yrausquin Airport, the shortest commercial runway in the world, on Thursday morning for their inaugural visit to Saba.
Queen Máxima wore a perfectly coordinated yellow and beige two-piece suit, matching high heels, gloves and purse with one of her signature hairpieces. Merciful with the rest of the suited and tied male counterparts, the King took off his jacket and braved the day’s heat in an ecru shirt, putting everyone at ease.The character of the once casual, yet dashing prince so loved by Sabans is still there. As the day went by, the relaxed and engaging King, apparently energised by the people he met, looked fresh and happy at the airport before departure.
Island Governor Jonathan Johnson and members of the Executive and Island Councils greeted the royal couple warmly. The official line-up included Johnson’s wife Roselyn and their newborn daughter, the only official sighting of the island’s “first family” since the happy occasion.
Nothing eclipsed the stylish Queen’s graceful presence while receiving bouquets from A’mya Wilson and Liam Johnson, one of Saba’s youngest residents.
Outside the airport, the royals were greeted by the primary school choir, led by Camille Blackman. The children wore specially designed T-shirts marking the occasion. They sang the Saba Song on a stage surrounded by the natural backdrop of Old Booby Hill and Mount Scenery with its peak in the clouds.
Kiana Hassell gave a short presentation on the history of the airport. One cute boy played the role of Freddy Johnson, a central character in the drive to create the airport and establish air service. The celebration marked the airport’s 50th anniversary, a special symbol in the island’s connectivity with its motherland and the world.
The official procession first went to the Spring Bay Heritage Trail observation deck where the royal couple could see with binoculars some of the archaeological highlights unearthed recently and integrated into the island’s protected heritage. Jay Haviser, founder and promoter of archaeological research on the Windward Islands, presented the work of Saba Archaeological Centre Sabarc and the Youth and Science Stimulation Programme, which started fieldwork in 2011.
Together with resident archaeologist Ryan Espersen, Sabarc trains high-school youths in scientific methods, encouraging them to conduct professional research into the history and culture of Saba, including the oral history still preserved by the island’s elderly. The archaeological digs are carried out in cooperation with Leiden University, with support from the local and national governments.
Their efforts are to culminate in the upcoming opening of a Saba Heritage Centre. The royal couple, parents themselves, could not have been kinder or friendlier with the participating youth, extensively asking them about their work. This set the stage for candid conversations. Next, King Willem-Alexander officially unveiled the new information board of the new “Heritage Trail”.
Another stop was made at the Organoponics Garden, perched on a difficult-toaccess hill. The visit to the social community project, honoured among the Kroonappels awards this year, was a special request by Oranje Fonds patron Queen Máxima.
Major Wingrove Baker set police blocks in spite of protocol and argued with accredited press buses, leading to consternation among both local and royal household organisers.
Once the press reached the garden, the royal couple already had toured the garden with explanations provided by project director La-Toya Charles and foreman Otto Manuel Anderez. The visitors were treated to a taste of various garden products. The royals had a chance to talk with one of the young garden workers who is being retrained. They wanted to know if he could use the agricultural skills he had gained in the programme to help take care of people’s gardens or start his own.
The roads to the various villages, while festively decorated with flags of the Netherlands and Saba, looked nostalgically empty, affording the royal couple a relatively tranquil ride.
Most Sabans rushed to the Juliana sports field where a large, orange-clad crowd awaited their beloved King and Queen. The youths presented an impressive cultural manifestation there, with various performances about the resilience of Saba inhabitants, their creativity, determination and pride in their achievements. Talented young Sabans depicted the lives and challenges of their most renowned ancestors, while speaking in the colourful dialect of past generations. There were performances on Saba lace, the simple signalling tools used to communicate with approaching ships, a skit about making Saba Spice and one about the making of “the road that could not have been built.” Saba Danza group put together a dance performance and the young children danced around the maypole.