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'St. Maarten Day' Celebrates 50th Anniversary With Traditional Festivities, Parades & Activities

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Tricia Rapp /
Leigh-Mary Kearney /

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten (Oct. 13, 2009) – Locals and vacationers alike will celebrate the 50th anniversary of 'St. Maarten Day' on Nov. 11, 2009. This year's event, themed "Express Gratitude To Our Forefathers," is packed with traditions, activities, parades and festivities all designed to unite the country as one island, one people, and one destiny. The date – Nov. 11 – was chosen because it is said that Christopher Columbus had seen the island on that date, naming it after the patron saint of the day, St. Martin.

"St. Maarten Day is a special day for us as it is a day to remember our heritage. It was this day that our island was born and we come together to celebrate and unite with one another to keep the spirit alive," said Frans George Richardson, Commissioner of Tourism, Dutch St. Maarten.

Citizens of St. Maarten gather early in the morning as festivities kick off with a number of sporting activities, such as relay races, fishing and kite-flying at dawn. A church service is held later in the morning followed by the traditional wreath-laying where government officials and civic leaders meet at a border point, followed by the hoisting of the flags and singing "Oh Sweet St. Martin Land," the island's anthem.

Afternoon festivities are highlighted by two parades. A uniformed group will walk through Philipsburg and head to Festival Village on Pond Island where dignitaries will give an official address followed by a luncheon. Following the luncheon a cultural parade will begin with ethnic associations displaying their cultural garb along with the Soualiga Kids Foundation and 750 elementary school children wearing costumes to depict local heritage.

Throughout the day, the Festival Village will play home to vendors and entertainment where people mingle and celebrate. Young children will enjoy an inflatable castle, trampolines and slides in a designated playground area.

For more information on St. Maarten visit the official site of the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau at

St. Maarten

St. Maarten is truly a unique island in several ways. It is the smallest island in the world to be shared by two nations, the Netherlands and France, creating a European-influenced vibe with a Caribbean flair. St. Maarten is also the culinary capital of the Caribbean with an eclectic array of elegantly-perfected culinary fusion that keeps “food lovers” returning each year. And with more than 300 restaurants, the island has something for everyone.

Located at the northern end of the Lesser Antilles, the island has 37 breathtaking beaches and is home to many historical and family-oriented attractions including the vastly abundant treasure of rare animal and plant species at the St. Maarten Zoological and Botanical Garden. The historically-pivotal Fort Amsterdam, the St. Maarten Museum and the picturesque and symbolic Mount Concordia, where a treaty and harmonious peace was forged between the island’s two cultures more then 350 years ago, provide other unique attractions.

The Dutch capital of Philipsburg offers duty-free shopping and a bustling city atmosphere in the heart of the Caribbean, while nightlife activities provide endless entertainment at the island’s 14 casinos and numerous nightclubs. For water enthusiasts scuba diving and snorkeling facilities are located throughout the island, which boasts a wide array of marine biodiversity and unique underwater dive sites such as the H.M.S. Proselyte, a notable British frigate which sank in St. Maarten’s waters in 1801.

Accommodations are varied with many designed to exceed the expectations of even the most discerning traveler and include elegant private villas, family oriented resorts, quaint cottages and luxury spa resorts. Air service is available to Princess Juliana International Airport in St. Maarten from a number of U.S. and Canadian cities as well as Europe, South America and the Caribbean.