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BASTILLE DAY RECALLS NORMANDIE BAR AND MORE

July 15, 2002 – It's hard to say who or what were the stars of the Frenchtown Bastille Day celebration Sunday evening. There were just too many.
Alan Richardson, the backbone of the event, was bounding around the affair, bursting with pride at its success. Support for the Frenchtown Museum, for which the event was a fund-raiser, was evident in the enthusiasm of the crowd, with lines forming to purchase barbecued chicken and ribs, icy cold beer, johnnycakes and a host of other goodies.
The dignitaries lined up in Richardson's 2002 Carnival float booth, a red, white and blue replica of the old Normandie Bar. Henry E. Louis, the deputy mayor of St. Barthelemy, presented Henry Richardson, president of the Frenchtown Civic Organization, with the museum's first official gifts — a framed French flag and the Offert par le commune de Saint Barthelemy, the flag of the island of St. Barth's. Most of St. Thomas's residents of French descent, both North Siders and Frenchtowners, trace their roots to that island.
Joining Louis and the Richardsons on the stage, were Odile de Lyrot, honorary French consul; Senate President Almando "Rocky" Liburd and his wife, Faye Elskoe Liburd; Sen. Lorraine Berry; and Cindy Richardson, mistress of ceremonies.
The V.I. National Guard Band got things off to a spirited start with a jazz riff that launched into rousing marches and big band numbers. Then, the 31 musicians abandoned their conventional instruments and moved to the steelpans set up in front of the bandstand to continue their show. Booking the band was no easy task, the Richardsons said; they worked for a year and a half to get the needed authorization from Washington, D.C.
Things were a lot brighter Sunday than when the band played in front of the Normandie Bar shortly after Hurricane Marilyn in 1995. In an effort to raise dampened spirits on the then-devastated island, still without power, the band had boomed out the only music anyone had heard for days, bringing joy and tears alike to a straggly but appreciative crowd.
Sunday's event attracted boasted old-timers to tots, and a spate of politicians including gubernatorial candidates John de Jongh and Michael Bornn.
Betsy Sheahan, owner of nearby Betsy's Bar and a veteran of 18 Frenchtown Bastille Days, said, "I think this is the best one ever." Eyeing the Normandie Bar float, she said, "That's great." And Sheahan should know — she tended bar there for nine years before opening up her own business.
Henry Richardson, who has seen a lot more than 18 Bastille Days, was as pleased at this year's affair as his brother. Living just around the corner as a child, "I used to wake up at 6 a.m.," he recalled, "and I could already hear the bands playing. On my way to school at 7:30 a.m., I'd see the flags flying and the champagne flowing all day at the Normandie."

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