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Village Opening Ceremonies Honor Collins Wesselhoft

Gov. John deJongh Jr. (center) joins other Carnival dignitaries in opening the Carnival Village.With the snip of scissors, the Carnival Village was open for business Friday, as speakers paid homage to renowned local trumpeter Collins Wesselhoft, while reminding the crowd to stay safe during the season.

One of the original members of Milo and the Kings, now Milo’s Kings, Wesselhoft humbly accepted his awards and accolades during the night’s ribbon cutting ceremonies. Explaining that he has been sick recently, Wesselhoft said he told his doctor he had to come out since he was being honored Friday night, and said that one of the things he is looking forward to the most is picking up his trumpet once again.

"I said I wanted to play the trumpet, but he said take it easy," Wesselhoft said.

Getting a laugh from the crowd, Wesselhoft said, "So I’m here trying to get back my strength, to lose a little weight. But I am the king, right? So the king is here, and when I leave, I’m goin’ to England to look at the queen."

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The village this year is called "King Collins’ Musical Courtyard” in honor of the musician, who has been playing in the territory and abroad for decades. Various members of his family also presented awards, and said Wesselhoft, along with being a talented musician, is a dedicated father, grandfather, great-grandfather and friend, especially to those in need.

Speakers such as V.I. Senate President Ronald Russell added that it is fitting to honor a musician during Carnival.

"One of these days, the Legislature is going to come together like a band and play good music together," he joked. "It’s going to come. But in the meantime, let’s recognize the legacy that musicians bring to the Virgin Islands with bands like Milo and the Kings, because that is what the Virgin Islands is about: musicians that have made a mark worldwide and especially during Carnival, which brings people all over the world to celebrate."

Speaking about the various Carnival events that started two weeks ago with the Prince and Princess competition, Gov. John deJongh Jr. also thanked the V.I. Carnival Committee for making the decision to host the village opening on a Friday, instead of the traditional Monday ceremonies.

"So now we have a few days extra for us to be all together," deJongh said. "I know the field has been full, and I have to thank (Carnival Committee Chairman Kenneth Blake) Blakie and the whole committee for making the decision."

DeJongh said during Carnival, the territory gets to show off its best side, and also called on community members to be safe and look out for one another.

"We have the chance to show the best of these Virgin Islands," he said. "We have the chance to show ourselves off with the food, with the drinks and the music, and more than anything, with our talent. This is our chance to show the world and to show ourselves, how safe we are, how much we enjoy being with one another and our culture."

Wrapping up the event, winners of the Village booth competition were announced, with booth No. 18 winning the best overall booth.

"It feels good, very good," said Alexander, who said the booth — built from the ground up by his father — came in second last year.

Asked if he’s hoping for a repeat next year, Alexander nodded, smiled and said, "Uh, yeah. Definitely."

Booth No. 5, belonging to Ismay Frett, was named first runner-up, while Martha Luis, owner of booth No. 27, was named second runner-up.

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