While the first set of band trucks came down Veterans Drive on St. Thomas a little after the sun came up, this year’s J’ouvert party actually started hours before with a Roas-A-Time of epic proportions in the Carnival Village.
The annual J’ouvert pre-party kicked off as usual around 4 a.m., giving members from the different J’ouvert troupes a chance to organize and warm up. The pre-dawn fetes and group outings to several different events throughout the Carnival season has made joining a J’ouvert troupe more and more popular over the past few years, and Thursday morning, the streets were packed with revelers wearing the distinctive oranges, yellows and purples of groups such as Carnival Kaleidoscope, J’ouvertnation and the V.I. Feters.
“The sun’s not even out yet, and look how many people there are,” said longtime J’ouvert-goer Roy McFarlane, who joined his sons in the J’ouvertnation area. “I’m so happy that J’ouvertnation and the other troupes are doing what they’re doing because it’s finally taking us back to the original J’ouvert, the early in the morning party that was done by 7 a.m. And with these troupes and all the things that they offer, people have been really getting back to enjoying themselves.”
After the Roas-A-Time party spilled out onto the streets, the troupes moved westward – or up – on Veterans Drive, bouncing alongside trolleys with DJs spinning music. Popular this year were some of the older Jam Band tunes, including the group’s 1990 road march winner “Horse Chip,” the song that marked the transition of some of the band’s older members – including singer Trevor Nicholas “Nick” Friday – from Eddie and the Movements.
The troupes were actually still moving up the road when the first set of J’ouvert band trucks were coming down Veterans Drive around 7 a.m., giving the scores of revelers that came out Thursday a chance to keep the party going for a few more hours.
Both groups – the regular J’ouvert attendees and this year’s troupe members – met in the middle somewhere around Frenchtown and for a good half hour, were jamming to the sounds of both the troupes’ DJs and the live music coming from the Cool Session, Digital, Avengerz and Poizen band trucks.
From left to right, the streets were packed, flags were waving, water was flowing from haulers on the sidelines and colored powder filled the air.
“You see, ‘there’s nothing more fabulous than Carnival in St. Thomas,’” resident Patrickson Thomas said, referencing this year’s Carnival theme, as he waved his V.I. flag up the street Thursday. “It’s refreshing being out here, seeing everybody have so much fun.”
“This is my third year with the troupe Carnival Kaleidoscope and, oh my goodness, it is so much fun,” Thomas said. “Usually when you’re out here, it’s uncomfortable, so much pushing and shoving, but with the troupes, everything is so organized, there’s nothing else to do but have fun.”
Part of what kept the morning running smoothly was the noticeable presence of law enforcement officers up and down the routes. The V.I. Police Department has been aggressive in its approach to Carnival this year, taking more control over the events in an effort to cut out the potential for incidents.
Along the streets, officers in blue stood monitoring, while patrolmen moved around guiding cars. including a mail truck that had to get down the Waterfront around 7 a.m. Meanwhile, an entire line of special operations officers formed a barricade in front of the J’ouvert band trucks and held strong as the vehicles moved up the road.
“When we get more involved, there are less disturbances, and that’s always something we’re happy about,” Officer Roy Chesterfield said as he monitored the crowd. “This is something that we plan for every year, even more so this time around, and it is our job to do what we can to make sure everyone enjoys themselves.”
Asked what he thought of the event this year, Chesterfield joked, “We really don’t mix work and fun, but it’s okay. We’re ducking from the water and the paint, but we’re glad to see everyone out there enjoying themselves.”