Roberta Flack has been bringing the house down and wowing audiences for three decades; Half Moon Resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica has been pleasing, pampering and wowing guests for half a century. What better way to launch a year long 50th celebration than a three-day birthday bash with Roberta Flack center stage?

Rain threatens Friday night's invitational buffet dinner and outdoor concert. Roberta is worried about the band's instruments as she rehearses in the afternoon. As guests arrive that evening, Half Moon's well-prepared and caring staff hands out umbrellas. Food stations around the perimeter are laden with a wide variety of Caribbean dishes and exotic island concoctions. The elegantly dressed crowd stoically stands or sits, waiting for Roberta to appear, refusing to let rain put a damper on what promises to be a fabulous evening.

Roberta Flack climbs the steps and sits at the piano; the reception is thunderous. Silence follows in anticipation of the first note from this living legend. Roberta's voice is strong as she belts out songs she made famous, and then serenades the audience with love songs from the new CD she has produced herself. She reminisces about her career, and talks about the Roberta Flack School of Music she is building on 126th Street in Harlem.

Saturday night

Half Moon transforms their shopping village (lined with 40 duty free shops) into a fantasy walkway of food stations and bars. After strolling, eating and drinking the crowd of hundreds move closer to the stage where Third World is performing. We dance and gyrate to Jamaica’s favorite band into the wee hours of the morning.

Half Moon sprawls out over 400 acres. Its private beach extends for miles. We enter the property through gates that have welcomed Queen Elizabeth, the Kennedy's and a long roster of stars and celebrities. This is a great hideaway, with beautifully appointed rooms and private villas. There is time to be idle or active with 13 tennis courts, a Robert Trent Golf Course, a croquet lawn, a full equestrian center, and a 26-acre nature reserve. Mondays and Fridays are Beach BBQ nights; a trio entertains in the lobby, and the bar on the edge of the beach serves delicious frozen rum drinks.

Stella Gray reigns over the spa, which she created and has nurtured for more than twenty years. I experience her commitment to health and wellness when she offers me a reflexology treatment. Stella tells me “When I connect with somebody’s feet, it works as a connection into their body and essence. I often get good information for a person’s betterment from their feet. I think by working on their feet, I am not invading that person’s space. You don’t want to scare someone away; you want to turn the volume up slowly to allow the body to receive treatment."

Shirley, my spa therapist tells me “when I first meet my client in the relaxation room, there are two energies flowing . . . hers and mine. I believe touch makes a difference. When I nurture someone, I think of mama nurturing me as a baby. Sometimes after a treatment, I feel as if I had one as well, knowing I went that extra mile to satisfy."

Half Moon began planning its 50th anniversary long before Hurricane Ivan hit the radar screen. When the storm became a serious threat, party plans were shelved for evacuation. Staff and one hundred and fifty guests retreated to the hotel’s soundproof Conference Center, far from the roar of the sea. Blankets, beach chair pads and a bounty of food kept everyone’s spirit’s high, bodies dry and appetites satisfied. Even the four dolphins that swim in the lagoon were placed in two of the property’s ten swimming pools. Fortunately, aside from beach and vegetation erosion, the property weathered the storm.

Just as "the show must go on", Half Moon's birthday bash became a cause to help others. $50,000 was donated to the Hurricane Relief Fund . . . an amount matched by the local National Commercial bank.

Here's to your next 50 Half Moon!

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