The Caribbean Ritual Dancers, above under the direction of Diana Brown, entertained the crowd in Franklin Powell Park with festive costumes and Bamboula dancing from West Africa on President’s Day, Monday, February 17, during the 14th Annual St. John Arts Festival, founded by part-time resident Frank Langley.
Heritage Quadrille Dancers from St. Thomas
St. John Arts Festival founder Frank Langley kept his long tradition of bringing Cruz Bay’s Frank Powell Park to life with songs, dances, crafts and art through five full days of events last week.
“I keep doing it because we need it,” Langley said about the 14th Annual St. John Arts Festival which ran from Saturday, February 15, through Wednesday, February 19.
The festival kicked off on Saturday afternoon, February 15, with Children’s Day, which featured the talented Love City Pan Dragons, impressive Love City Leapers and more.
The display of young talent was a thrill, especially since the St. Croix Agriculture Fair, which draws a huge crowd, was hosted the same weekend, Langley explained.
“Despite fears that we would lose children at the last minute to the St. Croix Ag Fair, the first day’s events exceeded all expectations thanks to the solid support of Elaine Penn, Dionne Wells, Daniella Greenaway, Beth Knight and Patrice Harley,” said Langley. “Small was good for the Pan Dragons, with five children and the arranger/instructors, Shomari Dyer and Ikema Dyer, they put on a first-class show. Elaine is looking for more children to continue to this important island tradition.”
Love City Leapers
Children’s Day also featured performances by Julius E. Sprauve School and one impressive Gifft Hill School student, Langley added.
“The children’s choir of Julius E. Sprauve School, directed by their teacher Daniella Greenaway, lifted the hearts of everyone with a full program of songs they had learned over the time Ms. Greenaway had tutored them,” said the Arts Festival founder. “As such it was sadly a farewell concert due to Ms. Greenaway’s departure from JESS for health reasons.”
“Gifft Hill School’s contribution was limited to one student, Allegra Muilenburg, due to the ‘Pied Piper’ effect of St. Croix, but remarkably her solo song ‘Colors of the Wind’ was enthralling and the audience loved it,” said Langley.
A dazzling performance by Love City Leapers and artwork by Gifft Hill School students rounded out Children’s Day at the St. John Arts Festival this year.
“The variety of school events was also astounding, and Ms. Harley’s Love City Leapers did tricks which were unusual to say the least, such as two ropes rotated alternately with a five-foot-tall youth synchronizing gymnastics within the two ropes,” said Langley. “As the opening program of the festival, it could not have been better.”
“Checking out the children’s art exhibits on the second floor of The Marketplace was also a delight,” he said. “Rosemary Richards of Gifft Hill School used the empty store windows to make a highly visible art show which ran for the whole week. What a dull world it would be without children.”
Sunday, February 16, in Frank Powell Park brought a languid day of faith-based music, Langley explained.
“Sunday afternoon was a typical lazy day in the park with a Sunday concert of the choirs of St. John Lutheran and Methodist churches,” he said. “Their hymns were soothing and consoling, with the singers dressed in their best Sunday dress. All was well in an otherwise crazy world.”
The afternoon also featured a dance performance of traditional steps, Langley added.
“To cap it off, the Heritage Quadrille Dancers from St. Thomas brought a wonderful sense of the way things used to be with harmonious music just loud enough to accompany the dancers who, with their colorful costumes and orderly movement, perfectly complimented such a sunny afternoon in the park,” he said. “So much so, that the audience joined in.”
President’s Day, Monday, February 17, was a holiday in the territory and the St. John Arts Festival brought a carnival-like atmosphere to Frank Powell Park, according to Langley.
“Monday afternoon was a carnival of music and dance through the ages, starting with an intriguing solo dance by Marcella Kelshall, and then early percussion music from the Echo People followed by Koko’s Scratch Band playing Quelbe tunes and songs,” he said. “The highlight of the day and the festival was the Caribbean Ritual Dancers from St. Thomas, under the direction of Diana Brown, dancing the old Bamboula dance from West Africa. Members of the audience were also invited to join the dancers — and they did.”
“Much to the delight of the children in the big audience, were the towering Mocko Jumbies with their beautiful multi-colored costumes literally walking with members of the audience under their legs,” said Langley. “The Mocko Jumbies were actually children dressed up as such, but it was not obvious.”
The fun continued on Tuesday afternoon, February 18, when Love City’s own Inner Visions delighted the crowd in the park, Langley added.
“Inner Visions has never ceased to be the best you will ever hear,” he said.
Tuesday evening was Movie Night for the St. John Arts Festival as Langley joined with the St. John Film Society to screen “Chasing Ice,” by James Balog at Gifft Hill School’s Upper Campus.
“James Balog felt compelled to provide indisputable evidence in support of climate change by photographing the arctic glaciers rapidly diminishing in size over the past years, with ‘time-lapse’ cameras and running the individual images as a continuous ‘movie,’” said Langley. “Huge areas the size of Manhattan island were melting and causing torrents of water emptying into the Arctic Seas. This has been going on for several years and coincidentally with the sharp increase in CO2 emissions and industrial particulates discovered in arctic ice core-samples taken over the past years.”
Sambacombo, featuring Rich Greengold’s Latin-flavored Jazz wrapped up the five day festival on Wednesday afternoon, February 19.
The five days also featured an Exhibition of Caribbean Foods, Arts and Crafts in both Frank Powell Park and the adjacent small park outside of the Department of Tourism’s Cruz Bay office.
“The exhibition was also a success, despite the continuing poor economy,” said Langley. “The new Caribbean-style booths with their thatched umbrellas and Madras-skirted tables added a fresh, tropical touch to the beautifully landscaped park. Visitors arriving from the U.S. and elsewhere on the ferry dock were welcomed with a delightful scene which was completely Caribbean in the park, booths, exhibits, dress and decor.”
Prizes were awarded to the best traditionally-dressed exhibitors, with 1st Prize to Dalhia Smith, and two 2nd Prizes to Sonia Sprauve and Yolanda Morton, according to Langley, who is already looking forward to the 15th Annual St. John Arts Festival next year.
“The whole festival proved to be so very worthwhile — based on the unsolicited praises received from locals and visitors — and we now look forward to next year’s events,” said Langley.