Festive, Resilient Spirit Promised for St. John 4th of July

A comeback fete after a season of woe is the goal and the theme for St. John festival this year.

Celebrations begin Saturday afternoon in Franklin Powell Park.

Organizers with the St. John Festival and Cultural Organization say the 2018 event will try to deliver music, fun and entertainment as it has in years gone by. But they say festival fans can expect a trimmer calendar than they’re used to.

“Resilient, Strong and Filled with Love and Esteem for St. John Festival 2018” is the theme for events being held between through July 4.

And it will include fireworks, said SJFCO Chairwoman Leona Smith. There will also be a tribute to police, firefighters, medical workers, rescue volunteers, utility workers and emergency managers at the July 4th Festival Parade.

Like their counterparts on St. Croix during the Crucian Christmas Festival of 2017 and the Virgin Islands Carnival on St. Thomas in April-May, St. John’s festival committee faces the constraints of a territory still in recovery from Hurricanes irma and Maria. The committee’s goal is to stage festival events on a tighter budget but with its volunteer based group largely intact, Smith said.

As a result, the Festival Bike Race has been cancelled. The festival princess and queen selection shows will share the stage on a single night at the Winston Wells Ballpark.

And one of the largest troupes in the festival parade is expected to sit this one out. Hotel employees from Caneel Bay Resort and the St. John Westin come every year in large numbers, in lavish costumes and on elaborate floats.

“I know Caneel is not coming. Westin is putting out a call for troupe members, so it looks like they will be there,” the chairwoman said.

Smaller troupes who travel from St. Thomas to St. John, such as the Gypsies and Hugga Bunch, made it to the Carnival parade while others did not. They are most likely to return to Cruz Bay streets for the fete.

Majorette troupes that appear in abundance most years are also likely to be fewer in number. The perennial Sebastien’s Majorettes can be expected and are likely to perform a tribute to the troupe’s founder, Helen Sebastien Gabriel, who died in late May.

But the highlight of the St. John July 4th Parade is the group chosen as Grand Marshal, St. John’s first responders who worked tirelessly through the wreckage of two Category 5 hurricanes last September.

Rollicking music can be anticipated this year in Festival Village. St. John’s hometown band, Cool Session has been chosen as the honoree. The opening of Sessionsville is set for June 28.

June 16 is the day for royalty and a slight name change for one of the season’s most popular events. The Festival Royalty Pageant has a scheduled start of 6 p.m. The audience that night can see a princess competition and a queen contest complete with fashion segments, talent and evening wear presentations.

The following week, on June 24 the winners of those contests will be crowned in a coronation ceremony at Powell Park. Crowning festival royals is a traditional part of the annual Food Fair.

Sports fans are also expected that day to enjoy some seaside competition presented by organizers of the Festival Boat Race.

Organizers also plan to mark July 3 Emancipation Day with a play staged near the bandstand at Powell Park.

This year’s food fair honoree is Sylvester Jolly, a local craftsman.

And for those who can’t wait for the fun to begin, Saturday’s Pan-O-Rama has been popular with locals and visitors year after year. This year the musical block party starts at 4 p.m. at the foot of the Loredon Boynes Dock, featuring the Love City Pan Dragons and seven more. Food and drinks will be on sale.

Shared content for Virgin Islands Source and St. John Tradewinds.