St. John Tradewinds News

New Troupes Dance Through Cruz Bay Alongside Old Favorites at 60th Anniversary Festival Parade

 

Residents of all ages dressed patriotically for the Festival and Independence Day parade, including the JESS and GBS Troupe, above.

Caneel Bay Resort’s Egyptian-themed floupe featured a towering pyramid, bottom right.

CRUZ BAY — The sun shone down on St. John as the streets of Cruz Bay came alive with color and energy on Friday, July 4, when St. John Festival revelers danced through the island town. The 2014 Festival parade marked the 60th year that St. John residents and visitors alike have celebrated the Fourth of July with a uniquely Caribbean flair.

Young and old lined the parade route, with many claiming their spots hours before the 11 a.m. start time so as not to miss a moment of the action.

“It’s a fun thing to do,” said St. Thomian Ronnie Lockhart, who attends the St. John Festival parade every year. “It’s short and sweet. I watch it from beginning to end.”

Lockhart said he was most looking forward to seeing “pan round de neck” troupes, and the famed Gypsy Troupe, which was founded in 1952 by his mother and father.

Joining Lockhart was Pat Bailey, also a St. Thomas native who comes to St. John for the parade every year.

“I like to support the culture of the Virgin Islands and our diversity,” said Bailey, whose history is also rooted in St. Thomas Carnival — his mother, Kay Bailey, was one of the founders of the St. Thomas parade in the 1950s. “Love City’s parade really carries the spirit of St. Thomas Carnival in days past.”

A seasonal favorite, Chester “The Mighty Groover” Brady participates as a one-man floupe.

Pan ‘round de Neck, below, played the route.

In honor of the 60th anniversary of St. John Festival, there were some special entries in the parade this year, including the appearance of many past princes, princesses, and queens. Parade marshal Elsie Thomas-Trotman, the very first Miss St. John, smiled with joy as she waved to the crowd from atop her convertible.

The Festival Committee, the group that puts in all the hard work behind the scenes, had a troupe of its own, featuring a “Shine Bright Like a Diamond” theme complete with dazzling beaded costumes and feathered headbands. Festival parade mainstays, the Shaka Zulus, did not disappoint with their intricate African-themed costumes; many troupe members let out great roars while lunging toward those lining the parade route, much to parade-goers’ delight.

Some troupes danced behind bands giving live performances, including Cool Session Brass, while others moved to amplified soca tunes blasted from giant speakers. The St. John Brewers troupe threw out beaded necklaces and candy to children lining the parade route. Even the V.I. Water and Power Authority had its own troupe, its float decorated with a mock propane tank and solar panels.

Always an entertaining display of Virgin Islands culture, Chester “Mighty Groover” Brady’s one-man entry this year paid tribute to five women important to the islands’ history. His homemade float honored Queen Breffu, who helped lead the 1733 St. John slave revolt, as well as the three “queens” — Mary, Matilda, and Agnes — who played leading roles in the 1878 St. Croix Fireburn. 

“I’m giving tribute to five women who controlled the islands over the years,” said Brady. “Every year I have a different cultural display. It’s never the same thing twice.”

Governor John deJongh watched the procession from the stand along the waterfront along with other government officials.

“I’m looking forward to seeing all the troupes, particularly those with young people,” said deJongh. “I enjoy seeing friends, family, and new visitors to St. John. The Festival parade is special — it’s small and has a lot of intensity. It reflects St. John.”

The evening wrapped up with a grand fireworks display over Cruz Bay, which attracted hundreds of people who lined Cruz Bay beach to take in the show.