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July 4th Village Opens On a High Note

June 28, 2006 – St. John's July 4th Village opening Wednesday was the place to meet old friends and make new ones. "That's the beauty of Carnival," St. John resident Leslie Smith said.
Brian Duplisa, who said he'd lived on St. John for two and a half years, was also out to see his friends. "When you're here for a while you have friends, and it's nice to see them," he said.
His brother, Ron Duplisa, was on hand with his wife, Debbie. The two were busy sampling the food for sale at the 18 booths set up at the perimeter of the public parking lot across from the post office.
"Roti, johnny cake," Debbie Duplisa said, ticking off what she'd had to eat.
St. John's warm, friendly atmosphere was apparent as friends shared drinks and conversation. Even Sen. Craig Barshinger got a big wave from his cousin, St. John resident Keryn Bryan, as he took his place on the podium.
St. John Administrator Julien Harley, in an interview before the opening ceremony, said he hopes that everyone enjoys the camaraderie that comes with July 4th Celebration events.
"And let the people of the Virgin Islands show their hospitality," he said.
Numerous tourists were busy enjoying St. John's welcome. "We came out to see what's doing," Chicago resident Louise Phillips said as the Love City Pan Dragons entertained on steel pans.
This year, the St. John Festival and Cultural Organization named the village after one of its own, group treasurer and parade committee chairman Natalie Thomas.
"I'm pleased, I feel honored, but I'm nervous," she said before heading up to the stage to accept the flowers, plaque and accolades from her fellow organization members.
When she's not on July 4th Celebration duty, Thomas works as deputy supervisor at the St. Thomas/St. John office of the V.I. Elections Board.
She was introduced by her sister, Leona Thomas, who spoke about Natalie's long service to the organization. She said her sister first started by helping out.
"But she was eased into the organization so smoothly, she didn't even realize it," Leona Thomas said.
Committee member Jane Johannes spoke about Thomas' expertise in keeping the organization's books clean.
Thomas noted that the annual event has come a long way since she first got involved.
"We've seen activities added and it's become more organized," she said.
The organization also paid tribute to the late Jam Band leader, Nick Friday, who died in Oct. 4, 2005.
"He was special to us," master of ceremonies Alecia M. Wells said. The committee presented a plaque to his family.
His daughter, Nicole Friday, said that she remembered Friday as a great father. "I wish he was here to see all of this," she said.
In addition to honoring Friday, Johannes also remembered committee member Yulandra Potter, who died in April. Potter was key in organizing the July 4th Celebration bicycle races.
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