Hansen Watley Named Acting Director of Division Of Festivals

U.S. Virgin Islands Assistant Commissioner of Tourism Elizabeth Hansen Watley with journalist and filmmaker Peter Bailey in Charleston, South Carolina for presentation of Bailey's documentary, "The Unbreakable Virgin Islanders." (Photo by Department of Tourism)
U.S. Virgin Islands Assistant Commissioner of Tourism Elizabeth Hansen Watley with filmmaker Peter Bailey in South Carolina in June. Hansen Watley has been named acting director of the Division of Festivals. (File photo by Department of Tourism)

The U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism has named Assistant Commissioner of Tourism Elizabeth Hansen Watley as the acting director of the new Division of Festivals.

Commissioner of Tourism Joseph Boschulte announced that until a director is identified, Assistant Commissioner Hansen Watley will be responsible for managing and promoting the new division, with her first order of business to launch plans for the upcoming Crucian Christmas Festival – slated for Dec. 4 to Jan. 4.

Boschulte said that with the passage of Legislative Act 8153, the department continues to work with members of the Virgin Islands Legislature and the Office of Management and Budget to secure full funding to staff the Division of Festivals and the Virgin Islands Cultural Heritage Institute within the Department of Tourism.

“As an established music and cultural ambassador of the Virgin Islands, we believe Assistant Commissioner Hansen Watley is well placed to help launch and execute efforts to establish our islands as a world-class destination for cultural celebrations,” he said.

The Department of Tourism, which has an oversight role for the financial budget for festivals, has begun the recruitment process to fill positions within the division, all of which will be advertised. These include positions such as assistant directors of festivals, an assistant director of marketing, administrative specialists, accounts payable specialists, as well as a permanent director of festivals and a director of the Cultural Heritage Institute.

The position of festival director will be posted this week, with the aim of having a permanent head in place by Sept. 30.

With her additional responsibilities, Hansen Watley will oversee the running and marketing of all the official events and festivals taking place in the territory.

The Division of Festivals within the Department of Tourism is expected to plan and implement several activities, ranging from organizing events to rolling out an aggressive marketing campaign.

St. Croix-based Shamari Haynes was recently appointed as a special marketing assistant to help Hansen Watley and her team with festival plans.

The U.S. Virgin Islands celebrates three major events: the Crucian Christmas Festival on St. Croix, the Virgin Islands Carnival on St. Thomas and the St. John Festival. Each features beauty pageants, concerts, sporting events and food fairs, all displaying the rich history and cultural heritage of the territory.