July 4, 2002 – In a salute to the holiday it honors, St. John's Fourth of July parade started off with St. Croix's Noel band playing "America the Beautiful." And unlike most recent St. John Festival parades, this one saw a smattering of flags and lots of troupes sporting the stars and stripes.
One of the most unusual came from a St. John group called Middle Aged Majorettes. Made up of a couple dozen women on the other side of 40, and in many cases, 50, the troupe sported T-shirts imprinted front and back with stars-and-stripes thong bikinis. Nancy Hedlund, at 58, said she'd have no problem making her way along a parade route that stretched from the V.I. National Park Ballfield through the streets of Cruz Bay to Winston Wells Ballfield. "I'm getting younger," she said.
St. John also saw a float "first" — from Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center. Some of the staff, including administrator Erica McDonald, were dressed in glittering finery, while others wore hospital scrubs splashed with color. McDonald said the health center first-ever floupe entry came about because "we were sitting around and just started talking about it."
Maintenance man Ogan Julien built the float, McDonald said, and they scared up some unused costumes from a St. Thomas troupe. The troupe members, many of them from the health center's medical staff, passed out condoms in a push for safe St. John Festival sex. Some people thought they were giving out candy, nurse Shelley Dixon said. "One lady said, 'I don't need that,'" Dixon related, noting that the woman was pregnant.
The Westin Resort troupe paid tribute to Army Sgt. Maudlyn White, who died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon. She was raised on St. Thomas. The float's stars and stripes segued into costumes of red, white and blue plus silver and gold for the troupe members.
Caneel Bay Resort picked up the patriotic theme with a float featuring an eagle resting on the Bill of Rights. With music by St. John's Cool Session Brass, the troupes were decked in traditional carnival style with colorful satin costumes.
Of course, it wouldn't be a St. John parade without many St. Thomas troupes making the trip across Pillsbury Sound. And there were a dozen or so queens and kings, including St. John's own royal court of Miss St. John, Hailey Kalahni Cagan; St. John Junior Miss Elyse Williams; and Princess Danella Bridgewater.
St. John and St. Thomas residents along with hundreds on vacation and visiting from other nearby islands packed Cruz Bay's streets, braving the broiling sun and occasional rain shower for the two and a half-hour parade.
"We're here for the parade and the food," said St. Thomas resident Thuryon Stevens, 17, from his vantage post across from the Creek. He made the trip with his father, Fellow, who said the two loved coming to St. John. "Although the parade doesn't have as many people in it as St. Thomas, it's just as nice," he said.
Clifton and Sharon Boyd from St. Thomas had found themselves a shady spot under a tree. "We were here early enough to get a good spot," he said. She said that while they hadn't been to a St. John parade in a few years, they decided this was the year to make the trip.
They were sitting next to an Oklahoma couple, Ann and Monty Buechline, who were on their way back to Tulsa after a vacation at Maho Bay Camps. The Buechlines watched the parade while perched on their luggage. "It looks like it's cool," she said of the parade.
Gary Grapser and Janice Keeley of Portland, Oregon, were on St. John to visit Keeley's daughter, Michelle. "She said we had to come out and see Carnival because it's so colorful and exciting," Keeley said.
While the St. John Festival may be exciting, for the most part the entire spectrum of events that began with Pan-O-Rama on June 1 went off without a hitch. The one exception came with a stabbing injury aboard a party barge Wednesday night. Deput Police Chief Angelo Hill, making the rounds of Cruz Bay during the parade with his top brass, confirmed that the stabbing happened but could provide no further details other than to say the victim was not cooperating with police investigating the matter. He could not be reached at his office later.
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