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Wednesday, February 8, 2023


Oct. 25, 2001 – For as long as most Joseph Sibilly School parents can remember, the annual Halloween party on the school grounds, presented by the Parent Teacher Association as a fund-raiser to benefit the school, has been one of the highlights of the year for pupils, family members and friends.
The event — featuring kid-oriented games, contests, music, food and drink, and the ever-popular haunted house — has typically attracted hundreds of people and raised $2,000 to $3,000, according to PTA president Sam Charles.
This year's Halloween fest was scheduled for Friday evening.
But on Wednesday afternoon, the children carried home from school a letter to their parents from Principal Dora Esquerdo stating that by directive of Education Commissioner Ruby Simmonds, the event had been canceled.
"No reason was given in the letter," Charles said. He said Esquerdo "tried to get a reason for the cancellation from Dr. Simmonds," and she was unable to do so.
"Probably a month's worth of work by close to 30 parents on various committees" had gone into the planning for the event, Charles said. All of the efforts were volunteer, "and it was a considerable amount of work, and all to benefit school programs," he said.
This year's event was expected to be bigger and better than ever — with the new enticement of free admission. A token admission of a couple of dollars had been charged in previous years. "It would have been an extra incentive to get people out," Charles said. "You'd encourage people to spend more on the food and activities, and you'd get the money anyway."
Charles's wife, Mona, a committee member, said Esquerdo telephoned her at work on Wednesday "as soon as she got the directive."
For the PTA, Mona Charles noted, "This is our biggest event of the year. I guess we'll have to think of something else."
Her husband has already been doing some thinking and has a tentative plan: "We're going to rename our event Family Night and have it in November." Same format, same time, same place, but no wicked witches, goblins or haunted house. "It'll be like a little carnival, a November fest," he said.
Esquerdo was taking part in a Red Ribbon Week anti-drug march Thursday and could not be reached for comment. A telephoned message left for Simmonds was not answered.
Halloween parties a-plenty
There will be plenty of other Halloween parties for youngsters on St. Thomas, however, even though some planners acknowledge that, given the scary stuff that's been going on in the world since Sept. 11, it might be better not to celebrate Halloween in ways intended to instill fright.
That's the view Coral World Marine Park general manager Trudie Prior expressed. "It's a matter of good taste and judgment," she said. While there have been some cancellations of Halloween events out of concern that they would frighten children, Prior called that overreacting. "I don't think we should deny them a good time," she said of the youngsters.
Prior said Coral World plans to proceed with its annual Halloween party, set for Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. Children under age 12 in costume get in for free, but each must be accompanied by an adult; the local adult entry fee is $8.
Coral World marketing manager Allegra Kean said the event will feature face painting, fish feeding, drawing of temporary tattoos, games like Pin the Nose on the Pumpkin, visits to a "Spook Room" and fortune telling. ("All good fortunes," she promised.)
Kean said a costume contest will begin at 3 p.m. Prizes will be given in different age groups and for the "most creative" get-ups. Each child will get a bag of candy to take home.
The Children's Reading Program at the Enid M. Baa Library also will have a Halloween party on Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Children ages 3 to 12 and their parents or guardians are invited to come in costume and enjoy games, spooky stories, snacks and fun.
Tutu Park Mall on St. Thomas also is planning Halloween festivities for kids on Saturday, from 1 to 6 p.m. The fun is open to children under the age of 12, and they must be accompanied by an adult.
Mall marketing director Pam Morales said personnel at stores in the mall will pass out candy to children in costume who stop by. "This is indoor trick-or-treating," she said, calling it a safe way for children to enjoy the holiday. All youngsters should bring their own "treat" bags.
In addition to the mall-wide treating, the Sweet Kisses candy store in the mall will celebrate its first anniversary with a "spooky party" that will include a costume contest and music by DJ Creepy of Big Bout Productions.
Also on Saturday at 10 a.m., the Estate Bovoni Weed and Seed program is having its second annual "Boo to Drugs" Halloween party, sports and fun day at the Bovoni site. Zelda Williams, program manager, said the event also is to celebrate the annual Red Ribbon Week, "saying no to drugs," and she expects a big turnout.
Williams said the morning will feature volleyball, softball, kickball, basketball and a boxing demonstration, with music and lunch to follow. In the afternoon, there will be a presentation on drug abuse, and National Guard and Police Crime Prevention Unit personnel will show the youngsters how dogs work in detecting drugs. Also on tap are a mini-fashion show, a magic show, dancing, treats, door prizes, a raffle and a limbo and fire-eating finale.
The Weed and Seed program is run under the V.I. Housing Authority and sponsored by the U. S. Department of Justice. Its strategy is to weed out crime and seed neighborhoods with positive programs.
On Halloween itself, Wednesday, a couple of events for youngsters are planned.
Pistarckle Theater is holding "an alternative Halloween" celebration at the theater in Tillett Gardens Wednesday from 3 to 7 p.m. Admission is $5 for children and $10 for adults. There'll be a best mask contest.
At the Hull Bay Hideaway, there'll be a family-oriented party starting at 7 p.m. Wednesday with games and candy for youngsters and announcement of best-costume awards at 9 p.m., in time to get the youngsters home and to bed at a reasonable hour on a school night.
Halloween — short for "hallowed evening" — began with an ancient Celtic belief that on Oct. 31 the Lord of Death released the souls of the dead back to Earth. While some still observe the date's occult traditions and some connect it with the Christian All Souls' Day, Halloween has for generations been mainly a secular holiday for most Americans.
The only public pronouncements regarding Halloween locally have come from the Police Department. On Oct. 17, Police Commissioner Franz Christian strongly suggested in a press release that Halloween this year should be "a night for family fun," as opposed to children going out trick-or-treating door to door. And, definitely, no child should be allowed on the streets alone at night, he said.
Christian also said police patrols would "saturate the territory" to prevent tragedies and crimes by anyone who might try to "turn Halloween into 'Devil's Day.'"

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