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J'ouvert Brings Early Morning Musical Madness to Frederiksted

Dec. 30, 2008 — St. Croix’s 56th J’ouvert early Tuesday morning was, as always, a thumping, good-time, dancing street party.
By 6 a.m. people are slowly filing from their homes and cars into the streets of Frederiksted. As the minutes pass, the trickle grows to a stream. Roosters begin to crow as the growing sunlight begins to match and surpass the glow of the town's Christmas lights.
The march begins close to 6:30 at Hannah's Rest, the first band truck preceded by a police car with blue lights flashing, moving at one sixteenth of a mile an hour toward Frederiksted. The stream of revelers picks up steam, flowing down Emancipation Drive in a reverse parade like a slow moving army charge. As the revelers meet the parade and the driving beat of the soca music grows to fill the air, folks start dancing and jumping up and down, falling in behind UMB Soldiers, who are cranking the beat in the first truck.
"Put your backside out. Put your backside in," the singer chants.
"This looks like a really big turnout, a bigger crew than in a long while," says Fling Nazario of Frederiksted. "It's something I hope never goes away. This time last year I was in Iraq and I missed this so it's really special to me to be here today."
More than half the crowd is wearing something at least a little unusual for the day. A few young men are dressed as women, an old J'ouvert tradition from Trinidad. Some are in pajamas. Bright purple, red, yellow and blue tights, tops, shorts and leggings adorn women of all shapes sizes and ages, all dancing in the street and following the bands down the road. Many groups of young women wear matching or similarly themed outfits. Five young women wave white dish towels. Some families wear matching T-shirts emblazoned with the name and likeness of a dear departed relative. Four women wore matching yellow T-shirts with the Virgin Islands flag on the front and the phrase "I'm not a b—-, I'm the b—- and that's Miss b—- to you"
Hy Voltage Band comes behind UMB Soldiers, pumping foam and bubbles into the street behind them. For some reason they stop playing about halfway through the route and turn off.
Men and women wear cut-up T-shirts and white T-shirts with colorful magic marker designs, sayings and phrases on them. "My bumper does talk," says one lady's shirt, along with "wuk it, wuk it."
As the lead band nears the Frederiksted Post Office, the sun is fully up and people and bands fill the entire length of the street. Stylee Band seems to be where a lot of the action is. Their truck is surrounded and the street and sidewalks behind them are packed to overflowing with hundreds of dancing men and women, banners, flags and bandannas waving in the air. Fusion Band follows behind, their already large crowd swelling as part of Stylee Band's crowd fall behind to see the next attraction.
Some younger girls wear garishly mismatched clothes on purpose.
"We clash every year for J'ouvert," says a young St. Croix girl named Jahesha,, there with her friends Deanna and Denecia. With big pink plastic earrings, bright purple, yellow, red and blue tops, shorts and tights, and shoes of bright hues, they clash from head to foot.
"Stroka Band!" all three shout at once when asked their favorite J'ouvert soca band.
The crowd is at its peak, thronging the corner of Fisher and Emancipation as the bands turn into Frederiksted and begin the final stretch through town. People are spraying giant squirt guns all over the place. A couple of men start flinging water into the air over the crowd out of gallon milk jugs and someone starts waving a talcum powder bottle, poofing jets of white powder into the air and onto people. These are variations on traditions going back to colonial times in Trinidad.
The last band reaches the end and the street that had been alive with music and dancing crowds is suddenly filled only with the much quieter murmurs of people talking as the happy, tired revelers began dispersing.
People come around cleaning up behind and a half hour later it is almost a quiet morning again in Frederiksted. But already people are busily setting up for the next festival event, setting up tents and tables next to Buddhoe Park and wrapping the bandstand in madras bunting for an all-day food, arts and crafts fair.
There are plenty of festivities still to come.
For St. Croix Christmas Festival schedule and all manner of information and photos, go to www.stxfestival.com.

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