July 5, 2004 – St. John glittered with gold on Monday as the island celebrated the 50th anniversary of its July 4th Celebration.
"It's the 50th and I thought it would be something special. And it's the best place to see everybody you haven't seen in a year," St. John resident Peter Muilenburg said as he chatted up friends.
Indeed, Cruz Bay overflowed with residents and visitors who endured the hot tropical sun to see about 50 floats, troupes and floupes make their way from the V.I. National Park ballfield to the Winston Wells ballfield.
Guy Benjamin, 90, a long-retired educator, was the parade grand marshal. "Have a happy and safe carnival," he said.
As usual, the parade had a dozen or so queens, princesses and princes, including the current Miss St. John, Tanja Powell. But this year the celebration committee put out a call to former Miss St. Johns to ride on a special float. Elsie Thomas-Trotman, who wore the crown as Miss Independence in 1960, graced the uppermost tier in a gold gown.
Another of the earlier queens, Beulah Dalmida-Smith, wore a slinky red gown and a banner that read "Miss St. John 1978." When the float had completed the parade route, she then raced back in jeans and T-shirt to shepherd the National Park float through its paces.
The park float's centerpiece was a windmill. "These are beasts of burden," Dalmida-Smith, a park management support specialist, explained as park staff dressed as donkeys walked by.
While the parade has been short on St. John troupes in the last few years, several groups whipped up costumes to join the festivities this time.
"We just got a team up for the anniversary," Lottie O'Neal, resplendent in red lamé, said.
A slew of St. Thomas troupes came across Pillsbury Sound for the event. The Indians, Acacia and Gypsy were just a few of those whose colorful costumes brightened the parade.
Caneel Bay Resort and the Westin Hotel and Villas, the island's two major hotels, put on big shows.
Caneel Bay's "Nubian Golden Extravaganza" featured a host of royalty as well as dozens of employees, including new general manager Rik Blyth, dressed in gold. "I'm having a great time as long as I'm close to the beer truck," Blyth said. laughing.
Members of the Westin entry were decked out in pirate costumes.
A group of former Virgin Islanders now living in New York put together a group, We Came 2 Lime. They passed out neckties and trinkets to the crowd.
Others also came home to join the festivities.
"It's awesome just coming home and seeing everyone — and the food and the people," Tampa resident Pat Lewis said as she chatted with St. John resident Ina Lee.
Erica McDonald, Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center administrator, sat in the shade with her Louisville, Ky.-based family in tow.
"It's wonderful and very colorful. I love St. John," McDonald's sister Henrietta Holland said as a steelpan group came down the street.
The Water and Power Authority did its part to keep people hydrated by passing out bottles of cool WAPA water. "We're trying to generate awareness of how good WAPA water is," Patricia Blake Simmonds, spokeswoman for the utility, said.
Despite WAPA's efforts, the day saw a handful of people suffer from heat exhaustion, according to Bob Malacarne of St. John Rescue. They were taken to the air-conditioned Emergency Medical Services center, where they were revived.
While safety was a concern for St. John Rescue and other emergency agencies, the person driving the Mystique Troupe truck threw caution to the wind when he left a couple of very small children inside the running truck. As the driver was partying with the troupe members behind the truck, one of the children scooted over to the driver's seat to play driver.
"That's an accident waiting to happen," one parade goer said.
While the July 4th Celebration has run smoothly, two men told police early Saturday that they had been stabbed at Fred's Bar and Restaurant in Cruz Bay. According to the police blotter, both were treated at Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center. No further information was available.
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name, and the city and state/country or island where you reside.
Publisher's note : Like the St. John Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much — and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice … click here.