While the 32nd Bastille Day Kingfish Tournament was cancelled this year due to regulations imposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Northside Sportfishing Club refused to give up its tradition altogether, choosing instead to commemorate the French holiday with a clean-up of Hull Bay Beach and cash donations to community organizations and scholarship recipients.

A dozen club members, including tournament organizers and volunteers, undertook a socially-distanced clean-up of the beach, and planted of several sea grape and maho trees.

“We experienced a new form of bad luck this year. COVID-19 resulted in a fishless non-event. Regardless, the club still wanted to give back to the community,” said Catherine Bryan, one of the tournament’s co-directors. “We were pleased to provide three students of French descent scholarships and provide donations to local beneficiaries, as customary. Now more than ever, the Joseph Sibilly School, St. Thomas Rescue, Civil Air Patrol and Nana Baby Children’s Home need our help and we are pleased to assist.”

The tournament typically attracts about 60 boats and nearly 200 anglers annually, and was named one of the Top 10 destinations in the world to celebrate Bastille Day by online travel adviser Hotwire.com. Several prizes are awarded, including a $3,000 prize for the angler that catches the largest kingfish. Since its inception in 1987, the club has donated nearly $150,000 to community organizations and nearly $60,000 in college scholarships through funds garnered through the tournament.

“On behalf of Principal (Dr. Merlene) Jones, the staff and students, we thank the tournament for its donation each year to the Joseph Sibilly School. It goes a long way and it means a lot to the school,” said teacher, Sherilyn Hodge, who received the donation.

This year’s three scholarship awardees are Edwin Bryan III, currently in his last year studying cyber security at the University of Tampa in Florida; Adrianna Bryan, a 2020 graduate of Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic School, who will study business and hospitality management at the University of the Virgin Islands; and Ryan Querrard, also a 2020 Ss. Peter and Paul graduate who will study computer engineering at UVI.

“I’ve come down and volunteered at the tournament every year,” says Adrianna Bryan. “The scholarship means a lot.”

Querrard has also volunteered at the Bastille Day Kingfish Tournament for many years and is grateful for the scholarship. “I’ve sold soft drinks, worked in the children’s area, and helped out in many ways over the years.”

To commemorate the tournament’s 30-plus year, the club has posted a slideshow on its Northside Sportfishing Club Facebook page.

Because of COVID-19 restrictions, all other Bastille Day and French Hertiage Week festivities have been cancelled. In addition, the Frenchtown Museum is closed until further notice.