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Charlotte Amalie
Thursday, December 7, 2023


The St. Croix Festival can become a spectacular world-class event that can attract hordes of people from everywhere.
It can be as nice or better than the St. Thomas Carnival. It can be just as intensely entertaining or even better than the Sinbad shindig. It can be the most dazzling and festive cultural event in the entire Caribbean.
This holiday season, thousands and thousands of people could flock through our new airport for a well-earned holiday break and an escape from the northern winter. Our festival can be a major economic booster to rekindle our St. Croix entertainment and tourist economy.
Does anyone disagree? Well, let's get on with the show.
Of course, doing what we have always done in the past for the St. Croix Festival is not going to work. Each year, we seem prone to repeat the same dumb mistakes. Usually, we assemble a well-intentioned festival committee that frantically scrambles together for a few weeks and the results are a last-minute, makeshift scheme without much imagination and devoid of quality and diversity.
Year after year, we end up with a raggedy and poorly planned parade and a few ugly-looking plywood shacks slapped together and placed at the dusty ballpark for the post-Christmas season. The rum and johnnycakes village looks more like a collection of shacks from an underdeveloped third-world country. It makes you wonder what have we learned in all these years of festival planning. As a matter of fact, the quality of the village and the entertainment were nicer when I was child in Frederiksted.
The festival renaissance that I am proposing is not just a dreamy notion in my optimistic mind. It's something realistic and doable, but it calls for imagination, teamwork, early planning, drive, cultural pride, discipline and five months of intensive hard work. And, guess what—we can make money and have lots of fun too. Here are some of the ideas that I believe would make our festival a spectacularly successful event:
Start planning immediately. There are only five months left before the Christmas holidays.
Think big. Use experienced professional planners. We must promptly assemble a full-time festival planning and coordination group and hire a professional planning expert from a entertainment-planning outfit such as Disney World to help spearhead the development, financing, coordination and management of this grand event. The festival village and parade should be spectacular and awesome events like we've never seen before on St. Croix. Many of us who have traveled and lived elsewhere know better. We have seen and experienced the results of good planning in other places. We can do it here too! Why not?
Plan and design an aesthetically pleasing and enjoyable village. Our village should look like a Christmas theme park. Let us get rid of the tacky and poorly planned festival village. Let's get our architects and planners involved. The village should be aesthetically pleasing with paved grounds, palm trees, good lighting and each booth should be an artistic and cultural expression, certainly more than just the usual rum and johnnycake shacks. We ought to insist that booth operators and vendors be more creative with their cuisine and their presentations. Besides the traditional home cooking, our professional restaurateurs should also get involved in operating booths.
Think globally. We must advertise the festival internationally and draw people from everywhere. The St. Croix Hotel Association and the Chamber of Commerce should be actively involved.
Think self-sufficiency. Like the Sinbad event, the festival should be mostly private sector financed and operated with the full cooperation of the public sector. The event must generate money to pay for itself. We should not be coy about charging a reasonable fee for some of the events to defray expenses. We cannot expect to offer everything for free.
Think quality and have cultural and musical variety. We must insist on quality and diversity for everything associated with this event. Every night at the village should be filled with wholesome family entertainment, emphasizing our best of the Caribbean and international community. There should also be musical variety and well-staged events with quality sound systems. Musical and cultural dance groups from throughout the Caribbean and elsewhere should be invited and hired to participate.
Build on our recent successes like the Jazz Festival, Harbor Night and Jump-up.
Preserve the village for other cultural events. We should make the village a permanent year-round place for special cultural events, such as the Virgin Islands & Puerto Rican Friendship and Eastern Caribbean celebrations.
Light up St. Croix! Place lots of white lights and colorful lights everywhere throughout the island especially in strategic places like the Market Square in Christiansted and across the waterfronts.
Use the new infrastructure. By December, we should have some new amenities to use on St. Croix, such as a new boardwalk, a new hotel and a new casino. And most importantly, a vastly improved airport to put to good use. We should also adequately plan for parking, security, ample clean bathrooms, and other basic conveniences.
Keep the village spotless with an uniformed cleaning crew working continuously throughout the night.
Like years ago, open the village early, preferably before Christmas and close on the sixth of January.
Make sure this works! From the start, monitor every aspect of the festival for continuous quality improvement. Set up a festival management booth in the village to have ongoing coordination.
Why the concern now? Fellow Virgin Islanders, it's the end of the millenium, a perfect time for parting with the failed past and for starting anew. A festival renaissance is a great way to start anew working together for a common purpose — the betterment of St. Croix. Besides, we need a major success to shake off the pessimistic cloud that seems to linger over us. So, let's work together and show the world our Crucian pride and workmanship in making this year's festival the most exciting and economically successful ever.
OK, no bickering, please. Lights, Action, Begin!
Carmelo Rivera is a licensed Management and Human Resources Consultant. He is also the former V.I. commissioner of labor.

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