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written by Linnea Brown

photos by Thomas Tomczyk

The holidays are a time for celebrating and company parties are no exception. For years, local companies have used their annual holiday celebration as a tool to flaunt the year's successes, spoil their employees and build corporate loyalty. But does it really make a difference? Party on and decide.

General Manager Amalia Vidal kicked the bash off by wishing all the employees happy holidays and congratulating them on a great year's work. "She thought of everything," said Fantasy Island Events Coordinator Dawn Hyde. "They made us turkey, pork leg, lobster, shrimp, chicken, rice, beans, salad and pineapple upside-down cake."
When the staff finished feasting, Italian Party Host Chebi Bolognese organized two hilarious balloon races. "Since we didn't have much time, I just did a really easy relay race with balloons," Bolognese said. "But everyone participated and had a lot of fun trying to win."
The prizes for the games consisted of hats, T-shirts and flight tickets to La Ceiba and San Pedro Sula. "This is only my second year at the Christmas party, but the prizes are really fun," said cashier Elsa Collins.
After the games, Hyde presented three mock-serious awards and conducted a playfully dramatic T-shirt raffle. Shouting gaily, Hyde provided all the staff members with an instant boost of contagious energy.
Hyde explained why the owners did not give out the traditional $500 employee of the year award, which is normally announced at the party. Hyde said: "It usually goes to whoever has won employee of the month more than once, but since no one was picked twice this year, they couldn't decide which month's winner deserved employee of the year. Instead, the prize will double and $1,000 will be given to the winner next December."
At the end of the afternoon bash, Hyde invited all off-duty employees to hop on a bus to the French Harbour carnival to support the Fantasy Island float.

Parrot Tree:
Although the invitations for Suyapa and John Edward's famous Christmas party at Parrot Tree Plantation usually never appear in mailboxes until a few days before the big bash, Bay Islanders never fail to show up-in their trendiest threads-for the annual extravagant celebration.
This year proved to be no exception as employees of Parrot Tree, Mayan Princess and Century 21 danced and feasted the night away at the Edwards' big bash on Saturday, December 13. An extensive buffet table stretched out across the porch, a bartender busily poured drinks at an open bar and dozens of guests danced to rousing party music inside the ballroom.
Mrs. Edwards, famous for her spur-of-the-moment bashes, said she prefers to plan and prepare spontaneously. "Everyone knew that I would throw a Christmas party, but no one knew when or where," Edwards said at the party. "I finally decided on a date four days ago and sent out 220 invitations."
In those four days, Edwards recruited a DJ, a bartender, a buffet wait staff and two cooks. She spent two days buying party decorations and food in La Ceiba and-with the help of the two cooks-cooked five turkeys, two pork legs and four hams. "I cooked everything except the 300 tamales, 300 rolls and the cake," Mrs. Edwards said. "I don't like to mess with flour."
Mrs. Edwards, dressed in a long, billowing black ballroom dress, led seven party games with prizes, including funky dancing games, a ring-toss competition and a couples' game involving a broom and roll of toilet paper. After a few drinks, many giggling guests readily forgot their inhibitions and joined in.
Mrs. Edwards, who has been throwing her annual Parrot Tree Christmas party for years, said she tries to make each year's party better than the previous one. "This year, I really tried to improve the decorations," she said, pointing out that she had carefully adorned the ballroom, patio and coffee shop with tiny red lights, green balloons and festive streamers.

Not every Bay Islands company has a Christmas party. Some businesses are too small to afford or organize one, while others have never started the tradition. Eldon's department store employees don't celebrate Christmas with an employee party. Neither do the Roatan employees of Sosa Airlines. Vegas Electric celebrated Christmas with dinner at Gio's Restaurant on Dec. 13. Over 40 of the company's employees and their spouses took part in this annual dinner tradition.
H.B. Warren department store employees decided not to hold their party and "Secret Friend" gift giving this year. The financial situation of the store and its employees didn't allow them to do that. "Everybody can't dig into their pockets for a 300-400 Lps. to spend for a gift for secret friend gifts," said Esther Faye Warren, H.B. Warren floor manager.

Mariscos Hybur Packing Plant:
On Tuesday, Dec. 16, seventy Mariscos Hybur packing plant employees showed up for food and festivities at Yvette and Allan Hyde's house in French Harbour. Seven department heads, along with office staff and their families, showed up for the seafood packing plant's tenth annual Christmas party.
The best cooks of the company prepared the meal of Mariscos Hybur-packed beef, chicken, and seafood: Julie Thompson, Robin Woods, Darlyn Muñoz and Yvette and Carla Hyde.
No one drank alcohol at the party, but temperaments during the piñata-beating suggested otherwise. While the children only managed small dents in the stuffed doll, the adults fell on their hands and knees screaming, slashing, grabbing and attacking the helpless ornament-motivated, of course, by the 3,000 Lps. hidden inside.
Although nothing could top the excitement of the Christmas bonuses that each employee received earlier that day, a raffle drawing excited guests just as much as the piñata. The prizes weren't as extravagant as last year's prizes of a TV set, VCR and microwave oven, but the winners of the raffle still crowed jovially upon hearing their names called.
Near the end of the evening, Hybur manager Sean Hyde delivered a forthcoming and emotional speech about the struggles the company endured during the US shrimp embargo-but only after employees managed to jokingly douse him with a bucket of water.
The party lasted until 9:30pm and ended just as it had begun: with a group prayer led by Rev. Brown, in his third year of attending the Hybur Christmas party. "People are more expectant than last year," said Rev. Brown.

Roatan Electric Company:
Who would have ever guessed that Roatan's favorite fix-it men, the Roatan Electric Company employees, were secretly Karaoke fans? Dec. 19 marked the date that they discovered their hidden talents at the annual RECO Christmas party at Coxen Hole's J.C. Recreation Park.
Although the invitations read 7pm, the majority of RECO's 60 employees arrived fashionably late for the annual Christmas bash, held for the past 10 years at Gio's Restaurant, Half Moon Bay and Brick Bay Resort. "This is the first year that we've ever rented a place out exclusively," said Leonardo Casco, company's general manager. "Juan Pacheco put a sign up and closed the park to the public, so we have the place to ourselves for the rest of the evening."
RECO tech mechanic Freddy Johnson of West End commented that although he was enjoying the bash's exclusive vibe, he preferred last year's open party location at Half Moon Bay. "This bar only has a limited selection of alcohol," Johnson said. "I could be drinking a daiquiri or Monkeylala by now."
Johnson said the company always treats their employees to gifts during the holidays. "Last week, the company gave each one of us a whole raw turkey with apples, grapes and pears," Johnson said. "And everyone's been talking about this party for months."
Latin pop music videos played on the open-air dance floor. "We didn't want to fall short in the entertainment department," Casco said.
He said this was the first year that he didn't need to prepare at all for the party. "Pacheco provided everything," Casco said. "The food, music, catering, drinks and entertainment were all included in the price of rental."
At 10pm, guests sat down to a feast of salad, roasted pork, turkey, mashed potatoes, flan and tres leches. Around 11:30pm, the beer-chugging and dancing contests began. "The prizes for the winners were the best part," Casco said. "An electric grill, a toaster, two blenders and a rice cooker."
Around 1am, the guests discovered the addictive thrill of Karaoke and all took turns performing until 3am. "We're all already looking forward to next year," Johnson said.

Fantasy Island Resort:
In the middle of a hectic holiday workday on Dec. 23, the 94 employees of Fantasy Island Resort took an afternoon break to feast on lobster, play games and kick their feet up at their annual Employee Christmas Dinner.
Held in the Fantasy Island conference room at 3pm, most employees showed up at the bash in their work uniforms, either coming from or going to work. "It's really fun for all the employees who are usually busy serving everyone else to have this opportunity to sit down and be served," said waiter Kenzie Webster.

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by Thomas Tomczyk

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Rain nor shine stops the fun at the French Harbour Festival.

The Third Annual French Harbour Christmas Festival went off with a bang on Dec. 22 and 23, providing a holiday entertainment event for all Roatanians.
At 6pm, police blocked off the roads to French Harbour for a two-night street festival under the stars. The whole event was organized by ORDECIB, Roatan's organization for community development. "Everyone worked really hard to make this the best festival of the year," said Patricia McNab, the organization president. "It's a huge holiday event where families get to come out and enjoy lots of music, games, food, fireworks, a boat parade and a street parade."
A tree-shaped light exhibit provided a welcoming entrance to the festival at the French Harbor Point, alongside a giant inflatable Pollo Rey. "I'm just glad it's dry this year," commented Denisa Johnson, a Los Fuertes teacher. (continued on page 10)
From 6pm to 8pm, the power went out in the section between Gio's Restaurant and Romeo's Restaurant. "The cable just popped down and all the lights went out, so the RECO truck had to come fix it," McNab said.
At 9pm, the first boom of the annual fireworks display sounded, signaling the beginning of the boat parade. Residents crowded across the sea side of French Harbour to gaze at the multi-colored, 25-minute show. Three boats, dressed up in Christmas lights, were the focus of all the attention until the beginning of fireworks.
Despite hard rain the next evening, locals lined the main street of French Harbour at 5pm for the annual Christmas parade, which began at the French Harbour Texaco. The parade featured 30 horses and 11 floats of decorated boats and cars. "Thanks to our float coordinator Shelly Hynds, we had floats from organizations like Fantasy Island, the Iguana Farm and the Municipal," McNab said. "And the band and dancers from the Tecnico Honduras School organized their own marching show for the parade."
The Tecnico drum corps passed in uniform red t-shirts, providing a powerful beat for their pom-pom-toting, high-energy dancers.

On the floats, the appointed queen of Ruben Barahona Public School waved, angels shook their wings and a Santa-in-sunglasses threw out candy from a siren-blasting fire truck.
Both the horses and the floats were judged by three non-Roatan residents from the Fantasy Island resort: Eric Hamm from Guanaja and Javier and Patricia Monge from San Salvador. "The horses were judged on three things," explained Jennifer McNab, horse parade coordinator. "Best dressed, best step and most obedient."
"We rated the floats on best decorated, originality, creativity, representation, clearness, organization and coloring," said Hamm. "But the best part was that all the participants had plenty of spirit despite the rain."
Four additional Fantasy Island tourists judged the French Harbour house-decorating competition. "They drove to all 35 decorated houses in French Harbour on Sunday night," said Rosa Silvestri, festival coordinator. "They gave a separate trophy for best-decorated in the highway area, on the hill and in town."
The festival also featured a block-decorating contest for all French Harbour residents. "The whole neighborhood from the small bridge to the Point was divided into nine sections of housing blocks, competing against each other for best decorations," McNab said. "We just had to make sure they put them high enough so cars didn't knock them down."
All winners received their prizes at an outdoor awards ceremony followed by a Christmas concert. "We also had performances by local DJs and the band Joseph and the Boys on both nights," McNab said.

2003 F.H. FESTIVAL awards
Best block decorations:
1st place.: A tie: Block 7 (The Buccaneer Apartments to Ms. Marina Mclaughlin's house) and Block 8 (Ms. Barbara Woods’ house to Edith Woods’ house).
Best-decorated house from Eldon's to the Police Station:
1st place: Ms. Sonia McNab; 2nd place: Cheryl McNab; 3rd place: Patricia McNab.
Best-decorated house from la Loma:
1st place: Ms. Orla Collins; 2nd place: Ana Rosa Collins; 3rd place: Marlin Williams.
Best house from French Harbour town from Romirez to the wall of point:
1st place: Mr. Sunny Bodden; 2nd place: Kendall Dixon; 3rd place: Irma and Carlos Fernandez.
Best house from French Harbour highway:
1st place: Ms. Evette Hyde; 2nd place: Marcia McNab; 3rd place: Nessie McNab.
Best fruitcake:
1st place: Marcia McNab; 2nd place: Nessie McNab; 3rd place: mClemmie Borden.
Best boat:
1st place: John McNab; 2nd place: Bob McNab, 3rd place: Fantasy Island.
Best horse:
1st place: Devin McNab; 2nd place: John McNab.
Best Float:
1st place: Island Shipping; 2nd place Martinez Power Boat; 3rd place Luna y Mar.

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It all began with a reading comprehension book in third grade that featured an illustration about the building of a submarine. Ever since, Karl Stanley has been planning, building or diving one himself.
Stanley started building his first submarine C-BUG (Controlled by Buoyancy Underwater Glider) when he was 15 years old. He persevered in finishing the $25,000 sub by working minimum wage jobs and running a small business that sold used text books to college students.
"This is the first and only man-gliding submersible ever made," says Stanley about C-BUG, his 12-foot, 2,400 pound vessel made of metal and glass.
Initially, Stanley saw the sub as more of an exploration vehicle than a business vehicle. "I made the mistake of keeping track of exactly how much it was costing," says Stanley.
With the help of Andy and Dana Arcaya, former owners of Sandy Bay's "The Inn of Last Resort," Stanley visited and eventually moved to Roatan. "They had a kind of 'dolphin envy' with Anthony's Key Resort (AKR)," says Stanley, who eventually found a new harbour for the sub at Half Moon Bay Cabins in West End. The Half Moon Bay location is the ideal place for the vulnerable sub, which benefits from both the proximity to deep water and shelter from strong wind and waves.
In the tourist-submarine business, the real money is in taking a lot of people at one time. "When I left Roatan after two years, I had less than a thousand dollars to show for," says Stanley. "There just wasn't a lot of money in taking people one at a time."
According to Stanley, the Atlantis corporation owns 40 submarines that can hold 40 to 60 people and dive as deep as 100 to 150 feet. At a rate of $80 to $120 per person, Atlantis has become the largest-grossing tourist service company in North America.
Stanley says that three things have to be in place to run a successful tourist submarine business: a strong tourist base, calm water with little current and proximity of deep water.
There aren't many places that offer that kind of experience. A 3-man sub in the Cayman Islands offers one-hour, 1,000 foot dives at $500 per person. The submarine performs up to five dives a day and has a staff of 14 people. Several other deep sub tourist ventures didn't last very long: one in New Zealand and another on Loch Ness Lake in Scotland.
Stanley recently took on the project of building his own 3-person sub: the yellow and white Idabel in a South East Oklahoma town. Stanley spent two years constructing the vessel.
Part of the $140,000 construction of the second submarine, Idabel, was funded by a salvage operation in Havana Harbour that Stanley took part in, which raised $30,000 to $40,000. By collecting deepwater inaccessible rare slit seashells, he raised another $50,000.
Following a 75-foot dive at the Broken Bow Lake in Oklahoma, Stanley went down to 1,500 feet off Roatan's West End. Since Stanley's return to Roatan in September, the new submarine has performed 21 dives. "Now all that had to break has broken and all that needed to be repaired was repaired," says Stanley.
According to Stanley, lights, motors and electronics give him the most problems. "There is something about electricity and salt water that don't go together very well," says Stanley.
With a commission paid to Half Moon Bay Cabins, the price of a two-hour dive is $500 per trip. In the spring of 2004, Stanley plans to diversify the variety of dives offered to the tourists. He plans to introduce a night dive, a half-mile dive and a wreck dive to the "Wendy," which rests at 2,520 feet. "If I do 200 dives a year, I'll be happy," says Stanley.

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