Leona Smith has wielded a broom when necessary, as seen above several years ago, to make the St. John Festival a growing success as long-time chair of the Festival Committee.
Festival Village to be Dubbed “Smithville” in Honor of Festival Committee Chairperson Leona Smith
After years of doing a lot of the hard work that goes into making St. John Festival a success, and after almost as many years of turning down the honor, St. John Festival Committee Chairperson Leona Smith has been selected as the 2014 Festival Village honoree.
Smith, who leads the Festival Committee on an entirely volunteer basis, is one of a small handful of people who coordinate the weeks of events leading up to the culmination of the Fourth of July Festival parade. With this year being the 60th anniversary, the schedule of events is bigger and better than ever, thanks in large part to Smith, explained Enid Doway of the St. John Festival Committee.
“Leona works hard, she really does,” said Doway. “We don’t get paid for the work we put in. We do it to keep this part of our culture alive, and she really works hard.”
Smith leads the committee each year as they organize and plan pageants, the construction and setup of Festival Village, a bike race, a boat race, food fair, nightly live music, and of course, the big July 4 parade and culminating fireworks show. Parade chair and Festival Committee treasurer Natalie Thomas credits Smith with organizing and streamlining the process.
“Everything is more organized,” said Thomas. “It’s very hard work, but some of the things she’s done have made it easier.”
Smith brought order to the food fair, which now requires vendors to submit applications in order to participate. Vendors are organized along the Cruz Bay waterfront by what they are selling, from fresh foods to arts and crafts. In addition to shaping up St. John Festival’s operations and events, the annual cultural celebration has grown thanks to Smith’s efforts.
“Festival has actually grown quite a bit under her leadership,” said Thomas. “The parade has grown to more than 40 entries, and we’ve added activities like the bike race that we didn’t have before.”
One of Smith’s other talents as Festival Committee chairperson is fundraising, Thomas continued.
“She is a very good fundraiser,” Thomas said. “She raises a lot of money for us to be able to put on the fireworks show.”
Smith, who grew up on St. John and fondly recalls performing as a majorette when the July 4 parade took place in Coral Bay, turned the honor back around to her committee members.
“I actually give the honor to most of the committee members who have really put St. John Festival on the map,” said Smith. “Many years ago it used to be small, but now it attracts thousands and thousands of people thanks to all the hard work that the committee has done to really make Festival a success.”
Smith encouraged residents and visitors alike to enjoy the live entertainment that’s on tap for the Village this year, including big-name international artists like Krosfyah, Bunji Garlin, and Machel Montano.
“I think we’ve taken our music to a level where people come out just to see the entertainment,” she said. “We are proud of our music selection.”
Smithville, located at the customs parking lot in Cruz Bay, will open on Friday, June 27, at 7 p.m.