Keith Yearwood

June 28, 1980 – Keith Yearwood was born to Henry Yearwood of Willikies Village and Rosalind Browne-Yearwood of Piggotts. 

Keith was raised in the village of Piggotts where he enjoyed a fun childhood which included building carts out of pieces of wood and small tires and riding them down hills and around the village and playing video games with friends. He also enjoyed treat nights where his father would bring home ice cream and snacks when he had to work late. His mother, a Sunday School teacher, saw to their spiritual development by ensuring that the family attended Sunday morning services at the St. George’s Anglican Church and Sunday School sessions in the afternoon at the St. Mark’s Chapel in parents instilled in him the importance of walking a good path and not engaging in negative behaviours.

Yearwood’s early education began at Edith Preschool in his home village when he was around 3 years old. At age 5, he continued to the Piggotts Primary School, then to the Clare Hall Secondary School. Upon completion of his secondary education, he enrolled in the Antigua State College’s Commercial Department where he completed the Business Studies Program.

Upon graduating, he gained employment with the government of Antigua and Barbuda in the Ministry of Sports as a Data and Statistics Officer tasked with compiling statistics for school sports. After one year in this posting, he was transferred to the Youth Affairs Department within the same ministry where he had the opportunity to work along with the National Youth Organisation (NYO) which was commissioned to engage young persons in dialogue to get ideas on how the quality of life for young people can be improved. During this time, he did sideline work with the Carnival Development Committee (CDC), more recently known as the Festivals Commission.

In 2023, one year into working with the Department of Youth Affairs, Yearwood received an official offer to work with the CDC which he took. He quickly took up the offer, taking the opportunity to work in every department, investing much time and energy into learning everything he could about each of these departments. 

Up to his passing, he served Festivals as a Cross Utilisation Officer. He is acknowledged as the Carnival expert within the department; the first name to come to mind if persons need to know about anything relating to carnival. Former Director of Events and current Board member within the Festivals Commission, Annette Aflak, corroborates this and describes him as an ‘exemplary worker who goes beyond the call of duty’. She noted that her leadership style focused on exposing those working under her to all areas to locate their niche where they felt most comfortable, however, she points out that Yearwood excelled everywhere he was placed. 

While Keith enjoyed working in all areas, he had a special fondness for Soca Monarch as it was the first competition that he worked on during his brief stint as a volunteer.

Apart from his work in Carnival, Yearwood was known for his portrayal of Santa Claus during the Yuletide Season. His involvement began with him helping out his former boss and CDC Chairman, the late Vaughn Walter, who would usually play the Santa role. During Walter’s absence one year, Yearwood was asked to fit in as the Santa for the Cathedral Bazaar more than 15 years ago and has been called upon for various events ever since. Being able to put a smile on the faces of children and cheering others up was his primary motivation for continuing all these years.

In addition to helping to launch his ‘Santa career’, Walter was one of the few other persons that Yearwood looked up to as a role model apart from his father whose devotion to hard work he admired greatly. Upon his father’s passing, Walter took him under his wings thus becoming a father or big brother type figure to him.

In reminiscing with Keith he viewed his accomplishments with satisfaction noting the good relationships that have been borne out of his involvement in the work at the Festivals Commission and as Santa. As he readies himself for another Christmas season bringing cheers and smiles, he wants to remind those who may not be feeling the spirit of Christmas, ‘as long as we have life, we can change our circumstances…be thankful because there are others with worse’.