CASTRIES, St. Lucia -- The lineup for the St. Lucia Jazz Festival 2003, announced last month, prompted a strong response from tourism partners in St. Lucia and operators and agents in the U.S.

Peter Hilary Modeste, director of tourism at the St. Lucia Tourist Board, said the early announcement "added the right amount of anticipation" leading up to the May 2 to 11 event.

The lineup includes performances by the Michael Brecker Quartet, Elio Reve Y Su Charangon, Nnenna Freelon, Herbie Mann, Darius Rucker, Unwrapped Allstars, Kindred, Incognito, Ashford & Simpson, Mike Phillips, Third Eye (a St. Lucian band), Four Play, the Spinners and Earth, Wind & Fire.

Although venues for the various jazz performances are located throughout St. Lucia -- from Gros Islet in the north to Laborie in the south -- Pigeon Island, north of Gros Islet, is the home of the festival.

Connected to the mainland by a causeway and surrounded by the ocean, Pigeon Island serves as the venue for the last two days of the festival.

Although its history dates to pre-Columbian times, Pigeon Island is best known for its role in the 1782 Battle of the Saints. Visitors to the venue can explore 44 acres of grasslands, tropical forests, beaches, the mountains and Fort Rodney, where the Atlantic joins the Caribbean.

Three festival sites at Pigeon Island include Pigeon Island Side Lawn, introduced in 1999, directly in front of the Captain's Cellar, a historical military hangout; Rodney Bay, a new venue located between Pigeon Island and Gros Islet that will seat 2,500 in cabaret or tiered balcony seating; and the Great House/Derek Walcott Theatre, a small theater nestled among palm trees that is named after Derek Walcott, one of St. Lucia's Nobel laureates.

The tourist board's Modeste said the jazz festival was launched in 1992 "to raise the island's visibility overseas."

"Our objective was simple," he said. "We wanted an activity and promotional tool that would command international attention at minimal cost. Enter the St. Lucia Jazz Festival, a high-momentum event."

The festival's dual role is to provide a platform to showcase St. Lucia to a cross section of visitors and to promote the traditional slow period in May, so that visitor and occupancy levels would be on par with that of the winter period, according to tourism officials.

The performances range from formal appearances to intimate, late-night open-air venues and picnic-style events.

St. Lucia Jazz Festival

Dates: May 2 to 11

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