Liston Potter of Potter’s By The Sea and his Chef Cledius Sam are gearing up to welcome patrons to the ninth Anegada Lobster Fest.

Officials with the British Virgin Islands Tourist Board are gearing up the ninth Anegada Lobster Festival, the territory’s first major tourism activity since the pandemic began.

Some 10 restaurants across the 15-square- mile island and several tour operators will welcome guests from near and far unlike last year’s event that was scaled back because of the ongoing pandemic.

“We’re very much excited, being that we were locked down for so long with COVID-19, we’re looking forward to it,” said Liston Potter, of Potter’s By the Sea. “The sister islands are also looking forward to it because they also want to get away, free up a little bit and enjoy Anegada lobsters.”

Rhodni Skelton, deputy BVI Tourist Board director who conceived the Lobster Fest, told The Daily News he’s looking forward to the return of the event to its allure of the past. Among its best years, he said, were 2016 and coming out of Hurricane Irma in 2017.

“We know what we have gone through these past two years with the pandemic, so we’re hoping for everyone to come out and have a safe, fun and enjoyable event,” he said. “Our sister islands are the most dependent islands on tourism and they have been without those funds for two years, so I’m looking forward for them getting an injection of that capital into their economy and everyone else having a safe, fun time.”

Reflecting on the growth of the event, Skelton said Anegada was often ignored by tourists because people didn’t know what to expect or how to get around the small island with a population of 333.

According to Skelton, the Lobster Fest opened up an avenue for people to visit. The event is planned out so attendees can move around the 15-square mile island — the second largest in the BVI — and get to know it, he said.

“My dear departed grandmother, before she passed, she told me that she had only been to Anegada one time, and this was a BVIslander who made it to 90-odd. Since then, more and more folks are comfortable going to Anegada, not just for the Lobster Fest, but for just a getaway and taking the family on a staycation and folks are more comfortable,” Skelton said.

He added that when the event began nine years ago, there was a limited amount of businesses, from restaurants to guest houses. Since then, Ann’s Guest House, Fort Diamonds and Sea Grape Villas have opened.

“We’ve seen the advent of more rooms and accommodations, we have new bars and restaurants,” he said. “There has definitely been a significant growth in the economy in Anegada since the nine years we’ve started the Lobster Festival.”

COVID rules

Skelton said that while he’s expecting a huge crowd, he’s a bit nervous given the ongoing pandemic. The key to staying safe, he said, is everyone following social distancing guidelines as best as possible, lots of hand washing and sanitizing. “We don’t want to have an outbreak coming out of this event,” he said. “The people are coming. There are boats coming from St. Thomas, especially now that we’ve relaxed the protocols so that vaccinated people only need to test 48 hours before coming to the BVI and do not need to test on arrival.”

Patrons who will begin descending on Anegada today will have an array of lobster choices including grilled, boiled, stewed, sautéed, curried and curried-coconut.

There will also be lobster kebabs, lobster rotis, lobster fritters, lobster salad, lobster cake and even lobster ice cream.

Skelton recalled that at a past event there was a chocolate-covered lobster, and that the offerings have been creative.

“A couple years ago we had lobster cake—I don’t mean fried cake — a birthday cake with lobster in it,” he said. “This year, we have lobster-infused ice cream and if I don’t get anything else, I want to have that lobster-infused ice cream. There’s lots to choose from, lots to sample.”