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50th Fourth of July Festival Is Full of Special Tributes

May 18, 2004 – Organizers of this year's 50th annual Fourth of July Festival plan to pause at the start of the celebration to recognize St. Johnians who helped to get things going half a century ago. On May 28, a Black and Gold Gala at the Westin Resort will honor a number of those festival trail blazers.
And the honorees are: former St. John Administrator Roy Sewer, Alice O'Connor, former Senator-At-Large Cleone Creque, Julius E. Sprauve Jr., and historian Guy Benjamin.
In addition, three other longtime festival volunteers are being honored posthumously: Frank Powell Sr., Elaine I. Sprauve and Paula Smith.
"We've never had a ball before," Leona Smith said. Smith chairs the St. John Festival and Cultural Organization committee which puts on the festival. "We wanted to honor some of the folks who were the founders," she said.
The gala event also will serve a second purpose: helping the festival committee raise funds to cover some of the expenses associated with staging this year's events.
A number of businesses and other entities that have supported the Fourth of July fête through the years also will be honored that night, Smith said. They are: the Westin Resort, Caneel Bay Resort, The West Indian Co., Varlack Ventures, the V.I. Port Authority, Boyson Inc., the St. John Accommodations Council and Bellows International.
Support from the private sector has been so generous that it extends to the fund-raiser itself, with Westin donating the use of a ballroom and Caneel Bay providing the food, Alecia Wells, festival committee spokeswoman, said.
Meanwhile, the Legislature has just passed an appropriation to the committee for this year's festivities that is about four times what it has gotten in recent years. Instead of $50,000 or $75,000, the committee is looking at a government allocation of $250,000, provided Gov. Charles W. Turnbull doesn't pick up his veto pen.
"We're ecstatic about that," Wells said this week of the large appropriation. "We need that, but now we're waiting to see if the governor is going to sign it." She did note that $250,000 is less than St. Thomas and St. Croix received for their golden jubilees two years ago, while also acknowledging that St. John has a far smaller population.
Nonetheless, she said, there are extra costs attached to putting on a bigger production for the 50th Fourth of July Festival.
Smith said special recognitions also will be woven into various events of this 50th anniversary festival. For example, the Food Fair is being named in honor of Ianthe Daniel, a founding member of the festival committee.
Smith recalled how Daniel reacted to word that she had been chosen for the honor, saying it was about time someone got around to recognizing the people who first made the Fourth of July Festival possible.
This year's festival Village is being named in honor of Lucy Smith Prince, who was the first person to set up a booth in the Village in 1954, Smith said.
Plans are being made to invite as many former St. John festival queens as possible to take a special walk on stage as part of this year's Queen Talent and Selection show, scheduled for June 19. Former princes and princesses also are being invited to join this year's contestants on stage at Winston Wells Ballpark.
Interest in taking part in the golden anniversary festivities is growing, Smith said, not only at home but also from off-island. People seeking to book rooms at the island's two major resorts for the Fourth of July already are being tracked onto waiting lists, she said.
Gallows Point Condominiums was fully booked for the festival finale a month ago. "We are sold out," Marcy George, assistant manager, said. "We were expecting that, but this was early. We're usually sold out the Fourth of July, usually the third or the fourth, then folks start checking out on the fifth. But this year the parade is on the fifth."
The festival committee plans to offer visitors a smorgasbord of activities, some of them missing from recent schedules. The calypso show and the boat races are being brought back. The St. John Junior Miss competition for pre-teen contestants also is making a comeback after a one-time appearance on the festival schedule a few years ago. And the festival's main athletic event, the annual bicycle race, will offer bigger prizes, Smith said.
The St. John Festival Musical Mix, which quickly became the largest box-office draw when it was introduced two years ago, promises a blend of reggae, soca, and rhythm 'n' blues. Negotiations are still under way for the headliner acts, but Smith said fans will not be disappointed.
July 4 falls on a Sunday this year, so the finale triple treat of J'ouvert, the parade and the fireworks have been moved to Monday, July 5. The committee is planning a Fourth of July beach jam at Oppenheimer Beach, though. For traffic control purposes, the organizers say they will arrange shuttle service to and from Cruz Bay for everyone who wants to get their jam on for St. John's big five-O.

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