Jan. 7, 2004 While St. John's July 4th celebration is months away, the St. John Festival and Cultural Organization is already preparing for the event's 50th anniversary.
"It's a big thing for the Virgin Islands and for St. John," said Alecia M. Wells, who chairs the 50th Anniversary Committee.
One of the committee's first tasks is to locate the women and men who served over the years as queens, princesses and princes. Wells said that the committee has a list of addresses and is busy contacting them.
As a special way of celebrating the 50th anniversary, the committee plans to award this year's Miss St. John with a car.
Leona Smith, who chairs the Festival and Cultural Organization, said the committee plans to fund the car's purchase from monies provided by the government. "St. Croix has done it. St. Thomas did it," she explained.
According to Smith, the committee last year received somewhere between $75,000 and $100,000 to fund the event. However, the monies were not sufficient cover all the expenses. Smith said the committee still has bills left over from last year.
On Wednesday the committee announced its theme — "A Golden Extravaganza Galore for Festival 2004" — and the schedule for this year's May, June and July events, which kick off on May 29 at 8 p.m. with a Festival Ball at the Westin Resort.
On June 5, the committee will hold a mini-fair starting at 10 a.m. in Cruz Bay Park. Pan-O-Rama follows at 5 p.m, again at the park.
June 12 will see the annual bike race, which begins at 8 a.m. at the V.I. National Park.
On June 13, judges will select the event's prince and princess at the Winston Wells Ballfield. The show begins at 6 p.m.
Mark your calendar for the June 18 Calypso Show, which starts at 8 p.m. at the Winston Wells Ballfield.
On June 19, Winston Wells Ballfield will be the scene of the annual Miss St. John Selection Show, which starts at 8 p.m.
The queen will be crowned at June 20's Food Fair and Coronation, which begins at 1 p.m. at Cruz Bay Park.
Boat races start at 3 p.m. the same day in Cruz Bay Harbor.
On June 25, Band-O-Rama begins at 8 p.m. at Winston Wells Ballfield.
June 26 is the date for the Festival Mix/R&R, Reggae and Soca show at Winston Wells Ballfield. The music starts at 8 p.m.
The Winston Wells Ballfield is also the site for the Gospel Show, which starts at 7 p.m. on June 27. The Children's Village opens at 6 p.m. at the National Park's ballfield.
The Village opens June 28 at 7 p.m. in the V.I. Port Authority parking lot in Cruz Bay.
July 3 is Cultural Day. Events begin at 1 p.m. in Cruz Bay Park. At 7 p.m. the Mr. Emancipation show begins in Winston Wells Ballfield.
On July 4, the committee will hold a beach party at Oppenheimer Beach, which will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
J'Ouvert starts July 5 at 4 a.m. in the National Park ballfield.
The annual parade through the streets of Cruz Bay begins at 11 a.m. at the National Park. The event wraps up with fireworks over Cruz Bay Harbor, which begin at 9 p.m.
This year Independence Day will be celebrated on July 5, which is a Monday.
St. John's July 4th celebration has its roots in Independence Day, celebrated around the country on that day. In the early years, the one-day event focused on activities like greased-pole contests, donkey races and groups of children parading.
According to a booklet published to commemorate the 1975 celebration, the first Miss Independence was Elsie Thomas, later Elsie Roberts. A green Jeep served as her carriage in the 1962 parade. In 1969 the title was changed to Miss St. John.
In the early days, residents funded the event by holding bake sales, raffles, fish fries, and dances. That practice came to a halt in 1966 when the late Sen. Theovald Moorehead convinced the Legislature to appropriate money for the festivities. However, residents were back to fund-raising in 1975 when the government's financial woes prevented the Legislature from appropriating any money.
By 1975 the event had grown to include loud speakers and more frequent ferries from St. Thomas to bring in bigger crowds.
Due to frequent flooding, the village was moved in 1973 from Cruz Bay Park to its present location at the Port Authority parking lot. That was also the first year residents gathered early on the morning of July 4th for J'Ouvert.
Until 1963, when vendors first began selling food and beverages, the majority of residents brought their own refreshments.
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