The last official day of Carnival was jam-packed with activity, starting with an Adults Parade that brought out everything from one-man floats to the traditional 300-member troupes and ending with a ‘last-lap’ at the Carnival Village that stretched into the early hours of Sunday morning.
A packed crowd was out in Post Office Square Saturday for the parade, which finished up later than usual as several delays along the route put the last of the troupes into Lionel Roberts Stadium after dark. For the most part, however, the gaps didn’t seem to bother many of the spectators, who either took the time to catch up with old friends or cozy up in the shady spots along Main Street with a cold beer, enjoying the sights and sounds.
Grand marshal Lubin V. Roberts led the way, followed by this year’s Carnival Queen, Deja’Nique Navarro, and her royal court.
This year’s Carnival Calypso Monarch, Patrick “DeSoljah” Farrell followed a few cars behind, dressed in white like Navarro with a matching crown. Since his recent split with the popular Spectrum Band, Farrell has made the Carnival festivities his stomping grounds, earning two Calypso Monarch titles and all the bragging rights that go along with them. Farrell was met at the parade Saturday by dozens of screaming fans, who cheered when he performed his winning songs.
“I am having a ball – having a blast,” Farrell said before heading in the square. “Every year, I’m always excited about Carnival, especially the Food Fair – because you know I love the food – and the parades. This year, I’ve been able to be a little part of everything, including the Children’s Parade: my daughter goes to the Montessori School and this year, they wanted to dance to one of our songs so we gave them the rights to that, and it has all just been a lot of fun.”
Also honoring the importance of calypso during Carnival was Chester “the Mighty Groover” Brady, whose one-man float is always in the front of the parade. This year, Brady serenaded the audience as his float, decorated with guitars, made its way up Main Street, and several tourists jumped in to participate.
Brady said calypso is an important Caribbean art form and during Carnival, the annual Calypso competition is a good time for residents to come out and sing about pressing issues facing the territory.
No parade is complete without the majorette troupes, and leading the pack this year – for both the Children’s and Adults Parade – was the Sebastien majorettes. Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone, one of the group’s organizers, said this year his advanced twirlers featured three award-winning majorettes, including 21-year-old Joel Claudio, who has appeared with the group for at least the past three years.
“There’s a lot of work that goes into getting these routines down and our group really puts their heart into practicing and getting them right,” Malone said. “Carnival is our biggest stage, and every year I think the Sebastien majorettes come out ready to show what they can do and entertain the crowd.”
The parade featured several new entries this year, including a five-man contingent from the WUVI radio station. Led by University of the Virgin Islands professor Alexander Randall IV, the group made its way up the road in a golf cart, with the students – four young men dressed in blue – following on foot behind.
“They are actually live on the air, broadcasting and taking commentary from the crowd,” Randall said as he held up his microphone during an interview with the Source. “This is the first time in the history of Carnival that a radio station has its own float in the parade, and we’re happy to be interviewing as we go along. At the university, we thought it was important for us to teach our young people how to be fluent in communications and how to do this kind of broadcasting and we’re having a lot of fun as we work out here today.”
Randall said the radio station WUVI AM 1090 is gearing up for an FM signal and opened its St. Croix station Friday.
UVI also entered a swinging steel pan orchestra, which moved up behind Randall and his students. Behind that came a group of pink-clad women showing off their Zumba moves as they danced through the streets. Led by Gaynell Harris, this year’s Zumba entry was about 30 or so people strong.
The V.I. Freshwater Association, hailing from New York, has participated in the Adults Parade for a little more than two decades, and their theme is always unique. One of the bigger groups in the early part of the parade, the association teamed up with the family of the late boxing great Emile Griffith and paid tribute to his career by donning boxing costumes and moving through the crowd to talk to spectators about his life.
“We felt that it was more than time to honor one of the greatest people from our community,” group leader Helen George Newton said. “Emile Griffith put us on the map in many ways – many people didn’t even know about the Virgin Islands until he became famous – and we’ve been working with his family for the past few months to put this together. In the back here, we’ve got ring girls, we’ve got referees and male and female boxers, so this year, we’re going to tear down St. Thomas our way: by way of knock out.”
While it took a while for them to get to the square, all the traditional favorites – from the Hugga Bunch to the Infernos – were out in full force this year, wearing everything from feathered dresses and sequins to matching booths. One of the more popular groups, the Gypsies, paid tribute to the matriarch of the local Sibilly family, Carmen Sibilly, who rode atop the Sibilly Royal Castle along with many of the family members.
The parade wrapped up at close to 7 p.m. at the Lionel Roberts Stadium, and many residents chose to move directly over to the Carnival Village for the traditional “Last Lap.” Booths were overflowing as people lined up to get a final bite of some of their favorite dishes, and the traffic moving along the Waterfront and back street areas was almost at a stand-still for anyone trying to get downtown for the fireworks.
And when the clock hit 9 p.m., nothing was heard but the boom of fireworks exploding in the night sky above the Charlotte Amalie Harbor. This year’s fireworks display, put on by the world-famous Grucci family, lasted only 15 minutes, but contained all of the family’s signature pieces, including hearts, flowers and swirls.
Carnival organizers said they would soon announce the parade winners, including best troupe, floupe and of course, this year’s road march winner.