Highly successful Royal visit to Saba
Loud cheering and clapping erupted as King Willem-Alexander, Queen Máxima and Princess Amalia stepped outside the airport building upon their arrival on Saba. The King said that it was good to be back and the Sabans were happy to see the Royal Family return as well. This time, the King and Queen brought their daughter, Princess Amalia for her first visit to Saba.
After making an extra round, the Winair aircraft landed on Thursday morning, the public already anxiously waiting outside with Saba and Dutch flags, some wearing orange shirts. At the aircraft, the Royal Family was greeted by the Executive Council. Outside, students sang the Saba Song.
The Occasionals Band provided the musical background, and four students performed a skit about Lambert Hassell and the construction of the “Road that could not be built.” Mark Zagers and David Leonce of the Saba Electric Company (SEC) showed the King, Queen and Princess the solar parks and told Saba’s success story of the transformation to sustainable energy.
At Zion’s Hill, student Kristin Zagers awaited the royal guests and told them the story about Mary Gertrude Johnson who introduced Saba Lace to the island. Peggy Alma Barnes and Edith Wilson showed pieces of their Saba Lace work.
At the Windwardside parking lot, student Larianny Del Carmen told the story of Rebecca Levenstone who carried heavy loads up from The Bottom. Pupils of the Sacred Heart School performed a folkloric dance in traditional clothing and did the maypole dance. Two spectators gave Princess Amalia and Queen Máxima a small child to hold for a little while.
Then it was on to Eugenius Johnson Community Center for a meet-and-greet with clients of the Life Center. After singing the coconut song, the King, Queen and Princess, accompanied by State Secretary for Kingdom Relations and Digitization Alexandra van Huffelen, each went to sit at a table to have a talk with the elderly clients who were dressed in the colors of the Saba flag. The royal guests showed true interest and asked the clients many questions. Director of Saba Cares Judith Meijer gave an explanation about the project to construct a new care facility and nursing facility.
Arts and crafts
At the Arts and Crafts Market on the museum grounds, the Royal Family visited the various booths where artisans showed their work and products. The members of the Royal Family tasted sweet and johnny cake, smelled locally crafted soap and admired the paintings, pottery, hand-made jewelry, Saba Lace. They were told how guava jam, fudge and Saba Spice are made.
The board of the Saba Business Association (SBA) during a short conversation with the royal visitors could share the challenges that Saba faces with banking issues, the high cost of living and doing business, the double taxation and the extensive cost of importing goods. The King, Queen and Princess were then given a tour of the Harry L. Johnson Museum by Jennifer Johnson and Tara de Oliveira before having lunch with the Island Council and the Executive Council.
A large group of students and teachers of the Saba Comprehensive School eagerly awaited the royal guests in front of the Sacred Heart School. Student David da Costa told the story of St. John’s famous farmer August Wilson. Students sang the Saba Song as the members of the Royal Family went upstairs to the Expertise Center Education Center EC2, which won an ‘Appeltje van Oranje’ last year for its Ways to Wellbeing program to help special needs, vulnerable children.
The next stop was the Fort Bay harbor where the delegation was met by student Richard Torres who played Minister Capt. Leo Chance after whom the 50-year-old main pier was named. Zelda Meeuwsen gave an update about the project to upgrade the existing Fort Bay harbor and to build a new harbor at Black Rocks.
The royal guests then walked to the Saba Research Center, the maritime lab, where Saba Conservation Foundation (SCF) Director Kai Wulf and marine biologist, researcher Alwin Hylkema gave an explanation about the sea urchin project. The King, Queen and Princess were shown the different sizes and phases of the sea urchins that are growing at the lab.
The last stop before returning to the airport was The Bottom. Before going onto the Johan Cruyff Court, the members of the Royal Family listened to the story of Carmen Simmons, her many accomplishments and initiatives, including the establishing of the Boys and Girls Sports Society. On the Johan Cruyff Court, the royal guests witnessed different sports being performed by an enthusiastic group of young people. Queen Máxima and Princess Amalia did a few serves at a volleyball game, and together with the King, they watched soccer and a game of bocce. At the Laura Linzey Day Care Center, manager Tessa Alexander gave the royal guests a tour and they took a group photo with the children and staff.
In front of the airport, the King, Queen, Princess and Island Governor Jonathan Johnson unveiled the new tourism promotion with four large letters spelling Saba. Then it was time to say goodbye. And as the plane left and the public waved, everyone agreed, including the more than 20 members of the Dutch media who came to Saba to cover the visit, that Saba can look back at a very successful Royal visit, even if it was only for one day.