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Tuesday, June 25, 2024


April 26, 2001 – Carnival 2001 will be history come Sunday on St. Thomas, but plans for Bacchanal 2001 are just heating up.
That's the annual Carnival-season gathering in Florida of mostly ex-St. Thomas residents, most of whom now call the Sunshine State home.
This year's 6th annual Bacchanal, set for May 11-13, takes place on another small island — Singer by name, just off Palm Beach about 70 miles north of Miami. Planners say they expect about 400 people to turn out — the same as for last year's event, held at Siesta Key on the state's west coast.
In six years, Bacchanal has grown from an informal little gathering of old friends in a public park to a production that this year has completely booked one hotel of a hundred rooms with spillover into at least two others nearby. And that doesn't even count the people who live close enough to commute.
"We've come close to 400 the last two years," says planning committee member Anne Lawrence Wray, who lives in Deerfield Beach, about midway between Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale to the south. It was Wray who organized the first two Bacchanals, held in Fort Lauderdale's Snyder Park in 1996 and '97. The third was at St. Pete Beach in the Tampa Bay area, the fourth was in Key West, and last year's was in the Sarasota area.
"We lined up a hotel even for the first two, so people would have someplace to stay," Wray says. "But this is the first year we've been able to find a facility that could handle all of the events as well as much of the housing in one place."
That place is the Canopy Palms Hotel. The Rutledge Inn, next door, is housing those who booked too late to get into the party headquarters. The nearby Hilton Singer Island Oceanfront Resort is another option for those who didn't register early.
In years past, attendees have come from as far away as New Zealand," Wray says, "and you can't get much farther away than that." Contingents have regularly traveled up from St. Thomas, especially folks who have family members living in Florida.
Each year, informally at least, the committee tries to outdo the one from the previous year, 2001 chair Sue Tully says. One of the planners' objectives this year was to have "a bit more of a Thomian theme."
"Because we've taken over the Canopy property, we can put up signs and get more creative," Wray says. So, on Friday evening, participants will be registering at "Fort Christian." On Saturday, they'll get to wine in the morning at "J'Ouvert," enjoy a buffet at the "Market Square Food Fair," watch a videotape of the actual Carnival 2001 Adults' Parade, play volleyball at "Sapphire Beach" and take their chances at the "V.I. Hilton Turtle Races." And Sunday's final event is a banana pancake brunch at "the Inn at Mandahl."
As far as food, "We have worked diligently with the hotel for months to come up with a menu that's close to home, not Bahamian, not Jamaican," Wray says. On Saturday night, there'll be a pig roast plus live entertainment and a "gala jump-up." And just this week, the committee got the news that Cruzan Rum will be a sponsor.
Other than a Friday night cocktail party and the Sunday brunch, all of the Bacchanal activities are squeezed into Saturday.
Heading the entertainment lineup, as he has for most of the previous Bacchanals, is St. Thomas calypsonian/folk singer Nicky "Mighty Whitey" Russell. The Brothers of Intent, the Sarasota island-style band that played for dancing last year, was so good — and had such a good time — that it's been booked to cross the state and play again this year, Tully says.
Tully, who lives in Lake Worth, just south of Palm Beach, says she and Wray "knew each other as kids on St. Thomas, and 30 years haven't changed us very much." Her parents owned the old Pirate's Cove restaurant in Sub Base, now the site of L'Escargot. Wray's mother taught at Antilles School, where her father was on the board. Also on this year's committee are Pat Deery and Peggy and Dee Wesley. Another Wesley family member, Lynda, designed the Bacchanal 2001 commemorative T-shirt.
Wray says anyone who hasn't already registered for Bacchanal 2001 but would like to attend need not panic. "Every year, a hundred people show up unannounced at registration and say 'Here' s my money,'" she says. "We take it."
The "Bacchanaleros" have a web site that incorporates everything from promotion of the upcoming event and photos from previous ones to a call for contributions to help a fellow ex-islander facing a medical catastrophe. There's a section of real and imagined linguistic islandisms and a place to exchange e-mails with folks for whom you don't have e-addresses. To check it out, go to St. Thomas Bacchanal.
To get information about registering for the coming Bacchanal and making hotel reservations, send an e-mail to Bacchanal01@aol.com.

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