After a two-year break, Festival returned with a bang to St. Croix, filling both Children’s and Adult’s parades on Friday and Saturday with queens, quadrille, moko jumbies, steel pans and troupes of all shapes and sizes, along with crowds of revelers ready to celebrate and let loose.
Festival Queen Rynel Harris shared Friday that it was a “dream come true” to be crowned for the 70th anniversary of Festival and, for the second time, to be able to cut the ribbon and welcome the community into this year’s Village. A member of the Rising Stars Youth Steel Orchestra, Harris said she plans in the year ahead to bring the message of the group – introducing youth to music and V.I. culture – to schools across the territory.
This year’s Children’s Parade Grand Marshal, the St. Croix Majorettes, set the tone with a high-paced routine executed flawlessly by more than 100 twirlers moving in unison up the route. Heading into its 50th year, their entry featured three sections with several new members, who organizers said have taken quickly to learning the choreography.
Also celebrating their 50th this year was the Caribbean Centers for Boys and Girls, whose members worked hard on an entry themed “We Save Lives,” emphasizing the services the organization provides to students throughout the community. Heading up the route, members waved to the crowd from the deck of a real boat that was trucked up, winning applause from the audience.
The iconic music of the Ten Sleepless Knights filled the streets as the organization’s youth group fanned out to deliver a full-quadrille routine at the review stand near Midre Cummings Park. Instructor Careeme Smith, who also served as the “caller” during the dance, said that reviving V.I. culture is a top priority for the group, starting with the “younger generation.” More than 30 youngsters came up the route Friday, but Smith said the hope is to continue to grow in the years ahead.
Saturday for the Adult’s Parade, Assistant Director of the Division of Festivals Shamari Haynes – who came up the route with the Simply Sophisticated troupe – said putting together both parades and the past months’ worth of activities was a round-the-clock dedicated effort and while there are still tweaks to iron out, the team was proud of what they were able to deliver.
Those efforts weren’t lost on the crowd or the many officials watching from the stands or taking part in the street, including Gov. Albert Bryan Jr., who said plans for the next four years include making Festival a “landmark” event for St. Croix, complete with a soca competition that pulls in participants from all over the Caribbean.
A few of the year’s more popular soca songs were hammered out by the Rising Stars Youth Steel Pan Orchestra, whose multiple trolleys were bumping Saturday – not only with music but with the energy of the young musicians that filled them. Once the Rising Stars hits the road, it’s time for the celebration to start, many in the audience said, as the group turned out back-to-back days of performances.
Another staple of the parade, Guardians of Culture Moko Jumbies, also brought the energy early, with about 27 participants that danced up the road and spent time interacting with the crowd. Since its inception, the group has trained more than 400 young mokos, some of which who started at a young age. Organizer Willard John said the youngest in the group this year was 13.
The Source thanks broadcast partners Our TV, the Kalalloo Network and Tempo, along with hosts Diana Dias, Adisha Penn and Cruz Rock for helping us to deliver coverage. Until next year!