Attendance was poor at this year’s St. John Arts Festival due to a venue change.
After a trying week in the V.I. National Park ball field, the 11th Annual St. John Arts Festival wrapped up on Friday, February 25, with organizer Frank Langley returning vendors’ fees.
From low attendance to few vendors, the week supplied a constant stream of problems and issues for Langley.
While only a few vendors took part in the week-long event, St. John Arts Festival founder Langley was hoping to be able to reimburse those exhibitors for their nominal fee to take part in the festival, he explained last week.
Langley’s return of funds was the last event in a weeks-long ordeal which included the surprise relocation of the festival, a sudden grading of the field, an attempt to remove the stage and on-going electrical issues.
While the fenced in Cruz Bay park remained quiet for most of the week — signs of demolition were first visible on Thursday, February 24 — Langley was pushed to the VINP field even though he had secured permits for Frank Powell park months before.
On Thursday, February 17, Langley was waiting for Department of Public Works officials to erect a stage for the scheduled bands, when a grader appeared, he explained.
“Last Thursday the Department of Housing, Parks and Recreation decided to ‘re-grade’ the VINP field, due to a ‘long-awaited grader suddenly becoming available,’ leaving no grass except for the perimeter,” said Langley. “On Friday it flooded after the rainstorm and it became a bog.”
The Echo People performed at the event.
The St. John Arts Festival officially opened on Saturday, February 19, with exhibitors scrambling to find dry patches of grass to pitch their tents. A planned “expo” layout was abandoned and attention was turned to getting the 30-peice 73rd Army Band set up for the week’s first performance.
There was no power in the field, however, because an electrical hook-up was not complete, Langley explained.
An hour later, thanks to help from Enid Doway, a Water And Power Authority representative arrived and got the 73rd Army Band in action, according to Langley.
“The concert was good, but the attendance was very poor,” he said. “The bog was the main feature.”
A Gospel Concert on Sunday morning was followed by a well-attended performance that night of the Caribbean Ritual Dancers at the Westin Resort and Villas.
“The Westin event was great,” Langley said. “Attendance was also good, around 50, with lots of children who had a blast joining in.”
Electrical problems continued to plague the festival on Monday when St. John Reggae band Inner Visions again found no way to hook up to the service box, Langley explained.
“For the past three days there has been no power outlets for the bands to plug into each day,” he said on Tuesday, February 22. “The first day, the 30-piece 73rd Army was kept waiting for over an hour while we tried to get someone to come and hook up a power cord with outlets to the service box on the fence.”
“The second day, we expected to find the power cord and outlets still there, but it had been disconnected and taken away without a word from whoever did it,” Langley said. “Again, we had to delay the Gospel Singers Concert until a cable with outlets could be found and connected. The third day, Inner Visions waited three hours until someone could come and connect them to the 220-volt service in the box.”
A Monday night recital by St. John School of the Arts dancers and musicians, however, was well-attended and kept the festival moving along, according to Langley.
On Tuesday, however, the festival almost lost its stage, Langley explained.
“A crew came and tried to take the stage and shade away on Tuesday morning, but the vendors would not let them,” he said.
With the stage in place, Echo People were able to entertain a small crowd that afternoon. On Wednesday, Langley was able to solve the power issues in the field.
“The power connection has been solved once and for all, thanks to Goodwin Electric who sent a man all the way from a job in Coral Bay,” said the arts festival founder. “He installed a permanent four-outlet box to the service panel, gratis.”
Koko and the Sunshine Band took to the stage on Wednesday, followed by Sambacombo on Thursday and Musical Vibrations on Friday.
Looking back on the week, Langley chalked up the less-than-stellar experience of the 11th Annual St. John Arts Festival to several factors.
“Attendance at the ballfield was very poor, due to the location, which was not central like Frank Powell Park,” he said. “Also the layout of band and booths was not compact like Frank Powell Park, due to the large, newly-graded area separating the bandstand from the exhibition booths re-located on the opposite side of the field to avoid flooding.”
The location of the power service box required the bandstand to be located on the far side of the field with vendors on the other side of the bog in the middle, Langley explained.
“The number of exhibitors was small because of the out-of-the-way location and the unattractive layout,” he said.
Langley also had trouble trying to fasten a sign to the large beige fencing surrounding Frank Powell Park to direct people to the new location of the arts festival, he explained.
“There was inadequate signage to re-direct visitors to the new location of the festival,” said Langley. “We had to use our other banner and make a re-direction sign and literally pin them to the fence cloth around Cruz Bay Park while avoiding traffic. DPW could not let us inside the Park to feed through cable ties because they said ‘only St.Thomas has a key.’”
Throughout the week Langley kept his smile in tact and has pledged the 12th Annual St. John Arts Festival will be better than ever — back in Frank Powell Park.