Thousands Get an Eyeful at Adult Festival Parade

The King Shaka Zulu group entertained adults and thrilled kids in the crowd.There was something for everyone in the Adult Parade Saturday, the climax of the Crucian Christmas Festival.

There were angels and pirates and mocko jumbies and superheroes, there were marching bands and dancers, marching troupes and steel pans and zulu warriors, baton twirlers and enough princesses to stock a good-sized fairy tale.

The parade began forming at 10 a.m. at the Claude O. Markoe Elementary School, but it didn’t step off until 2 p.m., and the last entry wasn’t leaving the school until just after 5 p.m. But the audience of more than 5,000 people stayed for it all, lining the parade route thickly all the way to the reviewing stand at Fort Frederik to cheer every entrant before the last one finished and fell out.

And Marion George was loving every minute of it. George is 71 and doesn’t know how many festival parades she has seen. All she knows is she can’t remember a festival when she didn’t go to the parade.

Sitting with an extended line of family along a center block of King Street in Frederiksted, Marion was cheering for a niece in one of the dance groups. She also had a pair of great nephews in the parade, she said, and wouldn’t dream of missing the chance to support them or the festival. Marion George hasn't missed the parade in -- well, a really long time.

The key to the parade? “Enjoy the young people there,” she said.

At the opposite end of the spectrum was Cheryl Hughes, who moved to St. Croix from Baltimore a year and a half ago and was attending her first Festival Adult Parade. She was on her feet, dancing to the pounding rhythm from the Rising Stars Steel Band, then the Fusion Band and Simply Sophisticated as each passed by in turn.

“This is fun,” she said.

Hughes was surprised by the length of the parade, but as the end of the finally began to draw into sight she was still in her place on King Street, and said she enjoyed every moment of it.

The King Shaka Zulu group was a crowd pleaser, decked out in the dress of the fierce African warriors. Dancing to jungle rhythms pumping from loudspeakers on the truck that led them – with loud lion calls periodically piercing the air – they provided the kind of scary fun that entertains the adults while thrilling the children, who weren’t sure whether to be excited or scared and seemed to settle for both.

A golden dancer glows in the sun during the 2010 Crucian Christmas Festival Parade.On the other end of the spectrum were the angels from the MOTTEP, the Minority Organ and Tissue Transplant Education Project, with the theme, “Give the Gift of Life.” MOTTEP seeks to encourage tissue donation among the minority population, which is underrepresented in the donor pool. The family of Khephra Nielsen carried pictures of their daughter with the group. Kephra died last November after a battle with leukemia that highlighted the need for marrow donation in the territory.

Traditional Crucian culture was represented by the Guardians of Culture mocko jumbie troupe and the West End Masqueraders. Eyes craned skywards to take in the stilt-walking mocko jumbies, dancing in their weirdly articulated gait. They were following in the wake of the masqueraders, who shuffled along, masked, to their traditional scratch and triangle beat.

The parade followed its own tempo, coming to frequent pauses as it worked its way through Frederiksted, but the dancers kept dancing all along the route. Asked how she kept up the energy, how she did it, 16-year-old Vernele Bardouille of Simply Sophisticated paused, then shrugged and said with a smile, “You just do it.” Then she launched into another dance step as the parade moved on.

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