July 4, 2006 – Robert O'Connor Jr., the grand marshal at Tuesday's July 4th Celebration parade on St. John, summed up the spirit of the annual event. "It's a fun time," he said, riding at the front of the parade.
Folks came from near and far for the event. Terri Morgan of Baton Rouge, La., and Barbara Stone of Southhaven, Miss., picked this week to visit their cousin, St. John resident Gary Emmons — especially because of the July 4th Celebration. "If it wasn't for this, we wouldn't be here," Morgan said.
Several visitors said they attended the parade because they wanted a new experience. "We don't have Carnival parades in Denver," Linda Mason, of nearby Evergreen, Colo., said.
And newlyweds Criss and Jacqueline Petersen of Freehold, N.J., were fresh from their wedding that morning at Francis Bay. So fresh, in fact, they were still wearing their wedding finery.
Barry Shea of Guttenberg, Iowa, said he heard about the parade from a woman at Cyril E. King Airport on St. Thomas.
Parade chairman Natalie Thomas said about 50 groups lined up near the V.I. National Park ballfield for their trek through Cruz Bay.
St. Thomas had a strong presence, with many of its traditional troupes braving the hot sun. St. Croix sent over its Crucian Christmas Festival Royalty; and Crucian Rum had a team in a mint-condition 1951 yellow Chevy handing out plastic sample bottles of rum.
St. John, of course, was out in full force for the parade.
Caneel Bay Resort's floupe featured a giant cake celebrating it's 50th year in business and a queen dressed in gold. Those on foot also wore gold in honor of the Aztecs.
The Westin Resort and Villas had its troupe dressed as market women in red, blue and green plaid.
St. John's Middle Age Majorettes had red-and-black bikinis printed on torso-covering T-shirts. Many wore red wigs to complement their bikinis.
Dana Bartlett, who owns Carolina Corral in Coral Bay, had trouble with one of her two donkeys pulling a cart.
"He's sick," she said as she struggled to unhook him from the cart.
She later said that the donkey, Pepe, was overheated but was now feeling better.
St. John's Love City Pan Dragons were on hand with its new trolley, the first year the group of youthful steel pan players has had its own conveyance. In previous years, the members had to borrow one to participate in the parade.
AARP was out in force, with St. John resident Eulita Jacobs honored with the organization's Andrus Award for continuous community service.
"She's done a wonderful job working with the entire community," AARP Director Denise Singleton said.
Ida White of St. Thomas and Ina Lee of St. John, both dressed in white, carried the banner for the Miss V.I. Senior America pageant.
Lee, 73, joked that she planned to run for the senator-at-large seat when she turned 75.
It was also a day for people to make money. St. Thomas resident Louis Richards was peddling his CDs, "Adrenaline" and "Dropping In."
"I need to get my music out there," he said.
Early in the day, he said business was good.
Lisa Mosley, a New York City resident with her roots in St. Thomas, was set up in Cruz Bay Park to sell her Sandals Solé.
"I'm doing very well," she said, noting that this was her first time at St. John's July 4th Celebration.
Although July 4th celebrates the country's independence from England, American flags were very hard to find. "I found it for sale on the Internet," St. Thomas resident Ronnie Lockhart said of his American flag T-shirt.
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