It's a pretty big jump from Market Square to Herald Square, even if you're using stilts. But that's what the Mocko Jumbie Jamboree troupe will soon be doing, at least figuratively.
The St. Thomas stilt dancers have been invited to perform - for the second time - in the famed Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade this November. Seen live on network television by millions of people across America, the parade is as much a part of the holiday's traditions as turkey and the trimmings
It would be wonderful if the Jamboree members could literally take a flying leap on their stilts to get to New York City, troupe leader Gerry Cockrell says. But, of course, they'll have to take planes, and they've got to come up with the funds for airfare on their own.
The troupe first took part in the Macy's parade in 1995, just weeks after Hurricane Marilyn devastated the islands. It was a time when the local economy needed the boost that the exposure gave, Cockrell notes, adding that, given the current fiscal crisis, another boost right now wouldn't hurt.
"It's really an honor to be asked back again, and we are thrilled," Cockrell says. "But we have to raise the funds to do it. Macy's extends the invitation, but all they provide are the rules. The rest is up to us."
For decades, the Macy's parades have been famed for their giant helium-filled balloons that float overhead along the parade route, towed by units on the road. This will be the 73rd parade presented by the huge New York department store chain.
According to Cockrell, the parade route is 2.5 miles long. The units step off at Manhattan's 77th Street and Central Park West, move down Central Park West, then proceed down Broadway to 34th Street and end at Seventh Avenue between 34th and 35th Streets.
The Mocko Jumbie Jamboree troupe has been a highlight of V.I. Carnival parades for the last 10 years since Cockrell gathered some enthusiastic youths together and formed her own group. Members range in age from 6 years to adult.
"Even though the parade route is longer, the parade is shorter" in terms of time, she says of the Macy's event, compared to Carnival. "There are no holdups. It moves about a block for every minute and a half. . . It is the hardest parade we have ever done because it moves so fast. Our legs do not move as fast with the added weight extended from our feet."
Late November in New York can be pretty chilly for those accustomed to tropical climes, but it's not a problem for the troupe, according to Cockrell.
"We are wearing layers underneath our costumes and we are constantly moving," she says, "so we stay warm."
The biggest problem the mocko jumbies encountered four years ago, she says, was that "the wind almost blew us over." This time, the stilt dancers will know to "be more aware of the wind. We have to look for it coming just as you would when you are sailing."
Ten troupe members took part in the 1995 parade, and the same number will be there this November, she says, including five who were there the first time.
When they were in New York four years ago, they got to appear on "The Today Show," through arrangements made by the Department of Tourism. They would love to do it again, Cockrell says.
As one means of raising funds to pay members' way to the Macy's parade and back, Mocko Jumbie Jamboree is available to perform for any function or occasion. Those interested in hiring the group can reach Cockerell to discuss details by calling 774-7057.
She also asks that anyone in contact with ex-St.Thomas residents now living in the New York area let them know that Mocko Jumbie Jamboree will be there for a week in November and would love to bring a touch of St. Thomas "jump-up" to the home folks.