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'A new dawn in heritage tourism'

Croydon farm adds Sam Sharpe experience to tour offerings

BY INGRID BROWN Associate editor — special assignment browni@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, October 18, 2012    

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A new dawn in heritage tourism is how operators of the newest attraction at Croydon in the Mountains — a 132-acre farm in Catadupa, St James — are describing the latest venture showcasing the history of National Hero Samuel "Daddy" Sharpe.

The property, said to be the birthplace of Sharpe and which currently offers a plantation tour to tourists, will be expanding its offerings to bring a heritage tour to locals and tourists alike.

One of the operators of the tour, Adrian Bayley-Hay, said the four main areas of focus will be on wisdom, wellness, adventure, and culture.

"This is another effort at showing a power-pack culture in line with heritage while enlarging the influence of Sam Sharpe," Bayley-Hay told a group of specially invited guests to a preview of the venture on Monday, which was observed as National Heroes' Day.

The heritage tour, which is scheduled to be officially opened to the public at the start of the new winter tourist season on December 15, will feature the artist's original of the five bronzed statues that are currently mounted in Sam Sharpe Square in Montego Bay. The statues include an image of Sharpe addressing a group consisting of a little girl seated on the ground, an older boy standing attentively, a woman seated on a stump and a man depicted as a warrior.

Bayley-Hay said the original statues, which are now prominently displayed at Croydon, were leased from celebrated Jamaican artist Kay Sullivan for a period of 40 years.

Sullivan was commissioned by the Government to create a monument in honour of the national hero to be placed in Parade, downtown Montego Bay, where Sharpe was hanged on May 23, 1832.

The operators of the heritage tour explained that Sullivan agreed that there should be a homecoming of the originals to Sharpe's birthplace at Croydon in the Mountains.

"She agreed to part with them only because of where they were being taken and the sentiments of the project," Bayley-Hay said.

A number of storyboards will soon be mounted along the trail, featuring verbatim evidence of parliamentary proceedings related to Sharpe prior to the renowned Christmas rebellion.

And even as the jury is still out as to whether Sharpe was a passive Baptist preacher or an aggressor, Bayley-Hay said the aim is to stick to the truth as best as possible.

"We want people, the general public, to be able to walk on a trail and look as close to the truth as in 1832. We need to tell the story and we need to tell it at home first," said Bayley-Hay, reiterating that the initial target audience will be Jamaicans and the diaspora.

Bayley-Hay said the Croydon farm will offer a safe place for the Sharpe monument.

"There is a lot of talk about defacing and the conditions of birth places of our heroes and we hope this will set an example," he said.

Meanwhile, owner and operator of Croydon in the Mountains Plantation Tour, Dalkeith Hanna, said he had no idea the farm was the birthplace of the hero when he bought it 25 years ago.

Hanna said he opted to start a plantation tour in 1987 after winning the Champion farm competition.

Today, the farm is known for its production of pineapples, among other fruits. He explained that he decided to plant the fruit trees as he awaits several acres of Caribbean pitch pine trees to mature 20 years from now.

"I decided to plant an income earner while waiting on the trees to mature and so I did pineapples, coffee, star fruit, tangerine, [and] bee rearing," he said

Visitors to the farm, usually from the cruise ship and hotels, are taken on a three-hour long tour of the property where they observe the various stages in coffee and bee production. Here they can also sample the 18 variations of pineapple or pick and eat star fruits from the low-hanging trees.

The plantation and the heritage tour will operate as two distinct ventures, giving visitors the option of going on one or both.

Commending the operators on the new initiative, Chairman of Jamaica Promotions Company Milton Samuda said heritage tours have not survived amidst all the positives because there is not sufficient value for our heritage.

"There is nothing shameful about earning from it because if you can't earn from it you can't maintain it," he said.

Samuda said the group has started what he hopes will be a pattern that sets the template for how the birthplaces (of icons) are treated.

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