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Charlotte Amalie
Sunday, April 21, 2024


Jan. 1, 2004 – A Frenchtown parking lot became a ballroom of "4,000 lights for Old Year's Night," a make-believe ballroom as pretty, sparkly and elegant as any, anywhere, everyone said.
At the Frenchtown Christmas tree-lighting ceremony on Dec. 15, Allan Richardson implored everyone to attend this New Year's Eve celebration where, he said, "we will turn the village into a ballroom."
True to his word, Richardson and his band of merrymakers from the Frenchtown Civic Organization applied their magic to the homely parking lot, and — poof! – there was Cinderella's ballroom surrounded by a dozen golden arches defined by sting upon string of bright white lights and punctuated with potted palms. Under the arches were white tents covering tables set up to enjoy the food and drink, or just to take a rest from the dance floor.
Well known for his decorating skills from decades of Moby Dick floats in V.I. Carnival parades (and most any other island occasion), Richardson lived up to his reputation, and more. He and other members of the FTCO worked night and day to bring about the transformation – and won praise Wednesday night for the result.
"I'm sure this is more beautiful than any ballroom on the island you would pay to get into," said Sen. Lorraine Berry, who can't remember how many New Year's Eves she has spent at the Frenchtown event — but "probably every one in the past 18-20 years," she said.
There was music, dancing, drinking, eating and festive camaraderie as the Frenchtown community and dozens of other folks celebrated the approach of another New Year, awaiting the magic hour when the fishpot would drop.
Berry's husband, Richard Berry, kept up a busy beat all night playing saxophone with his Seabreeze band, while stalwart Leo Moron broadcast the event over WVWI Radio, talking to one and all, never missing a beat.
"I think this is the best ever," said a happy Henry Richardson, president of the FTCO, as he gazed at the organization's handiwork. Allan, his brother, was obviously delighted as he danced around the crowd in a bright green hat, greeting one and all.
"Beautiful!" "It's so pretty!" "This year they really outdid themselves!" commented the happy crowd.
"No one could have done a better job," Lorraine Berry said, "Allan is so creative. It's a different way to start the new year."
And then came the moment everyone was waiting for. The fishpot dropped from atop a colorfully decorated 30-foot pole at the first stroke of midnight. What started out five years ago with the dropping of silver coconuts, a la the traditional dropping of the ball in New York's Times Square, has now become a new tradition — and one that will continue, FTCO officials say.
The year after the coconuts, it was fish; the next year, it was bright red apples honoring New York, the really Big Apple; last year it was local fish — ale wife and yellowtail. And on Wednesday night, it was simply everything – hams, turkey, sweetbreads, gift certificates to local restaurants. And, also at the stroke of midnight, a fire engine arrived, its sirens howling, as horns and hollers, noisemakers and hoorays sounded from the happy crowd.
With the dawning of New Year's Day, what remained were the unlighted arches, the abandoned 30-foot pole and the empty bandstand, tables and chairs. But the Christmas tree remained brightly lighted, and the magic was not quite gone. In fact, it was very much alive in conversation coming from the front porch of the Zima Grocery Store across the street.
"Yes, that was something!" one person said. "Happy New Year! Wasn't last night great?"
"The best ever!" came the instant answer.

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