June 3, 2007 – Help wanted! Folks with energy and enthusiasm to staff the St. John Children's Carnival Village. The event runs from June 29 until July 3.
"I would never say we have enough volunteers," committee member Lonnie Willis said.
She said it takes about 25 people to operate the games, run the refreshment machines and sell tickets for each night of the event. Many of them volunteer through groups made up of people like contractors and Realtors.
The event got its start umpteen years ago – no one quite remembers the date – when longtime St. John resident Mary Ellis realized there was no child-friendly place for kids during the island's July 4th Celebration.
The Community Foundation only missed one year, and that was several years ago.
"The kids were really disappointed that year," Willis said.
A member of the St. John Yacht Club, Ellis said she suggested using money members wanted to use for a parade float to create a children's village. She called on her brother, St. John architect Rob Crane, to draw up plans for some games, and the rest, as they say, was history.
"We decided right off the bat it would be affordable," she said.
Even in 2007, the cost remains low, with activity tickets costing 50 cents. Lori Barlas, who is organizing the tickets, said that most activities and refreshments cost one or two tickets. Photos from the photo booth are six tickets.
This year, the event is sponsored by the St. John Community Foundation and the Rotary Club of St. John. It's targeted at children ages two to 12, although older children often show up to help.
The Community Foundation took over organizing the event from Ellis years ago.
Joan Bermingham, who serves as co-chair of the event with Debbie Marsh, said that games include ring toss, basketball, bowling, face painting and more.
The children receive gold coins when they win at a game. They accumulate those coins to trade in for prizes like purses, stuffed animals, trucks, and more.
"It's like circus prizes," Bermingham said.
The money raised goes to fund children's activities.
The logistics are daunting. Over the years, the Community Foundation acquired numerous games, which are now stored at Bellevue Village. The organization owns a piece of adjacent land, where it stores its booth.
Willis said that about five years ago, the Community Foundation hired a group to run a Hot Wheels game. However, since the Community Foundation didn't make much money off that endeavor, they got their own.
Willis said the Community Foundation once set up the Children's Village with booths similar to those used at the adult village.
"It was difficult to break down and we had trouble with the termites eating it up," she said.
The event has spread from the parking area at the V.I. National Park's bulkhead to include much of the land between the bulkhead and the ballfield.
Willis said that in the earliest years, the kids didn't understand about queuing up and saying thank you, but they quickly caught on. She said that now everyone participates in an orderly fashion.
If you'd like to donate money to help make the Children's Carnival Village a success, send checks to St. John Community Foundation, P.O. Box 1020, Cruz Bay, St. John, VI, 00831 with a note that it's for Children's Carnival.
To volunteer, call Bermingham at 776-6182.
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