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Starbursts Over the Sea for 4th of July Fireworks in Frederiksted

July 4, 2007 — For the 90th American Independence Day celebration on St. Croix, Frederiksted began filling up long before sunset.
At 6:30 in the evening, teenage kids played pick-up basketball in the park just north of Fort Frederik. The children’s park across the street was filled with smaller children and their mothers. Children’s shouts and laughter rang out, and the aroma of barbecue wafted along the lightly stirring tropical air.
At the north end of town, mostly older, mostly continental-looking folk were parking in the St. Croix Country Club parking lot, draped in their nicest tropical attire, strolling into their pricey enclave as attendants minded their personal parking area. At the other, the fellows at the Frederiksted Fish Market marked their open-air country club in their own way.
In between the two — as the sun set, casting a mellow orange glow over the cream-colored stone of Frederiksted’s Strand Street — the waterfront slowly and inexorably began filling up with a huge cross section of St. Croix’s richly diverse populous.
Women pushing baby carriages, older children walking on either side. Clusters of teenage boys with pigtail braids, big gold (and gold-colored) chains and their coolest knee-length T-shirts. Groups of girls in tight jeans and halter-top tees decorated with sparkly slogans. Arab women in cream-colored head scarves, chatting with one another and watching their younger children. Young, mousse-haired continental men in khaki shorts, tropical shirts and flip-flops. Puerto Rican families speaking Spanish amongst themselves, picking out good viewing spots and setting up folding chairs. Older, more traditional Crucians and down islanders out with friends and family.
All these and everyone else besides came out west Wednesday to see the pyrotechnics.
While most of the island was relaxing, enjoying the holiday, the cooks, waiters and bartenders in all the restaurants near the water began to hit high gear, focusing their minds and speeding up their hands and feet for the big push as waves of hungry and thirsty revelers crashed into their dining rooms.
On the stage at the foot of the clock tower in Buddhoe Park, a crowd listened to Big Band St. Croix playing “Mack the Knife” and other jazz numbers. The St. Croix Majorettes performed later, while the sun’s last rays faded over a still, flat Caribbean sea, disturbed only by the wake of a lone jet ski — a young man in long dreads at the helm, a young lady behind. A little ways up from the waterfront on King Street, a duo played reggae at Harbor Lites Cafe, one playing keyboard and singing while the other blew a soothing saxophone melody. The sounds of jazz floated out from Blue Moon Cafe on Strand Street, and if you went all the way to the end of Strand, spirited reggae boomed out from the fish market. Anywhere you went, there was music.
Chenelle Ramos was on the waterfront with her young son, holding a prime viewing spot.
“I like fireworks,” the toddler said when asked what he thought of the 4th of July.
Delita Bess of Christiansted staked out a prime viewing spot for herself and a friend in the form of a nicely situated park bench.
“This is my first time out west for the fireworks,” said Bess, a St. Croix native. “Usually I do whatever is happening out east, nearer to home. But I’m looking forward to the fireworks tonight.”
As the darkness grew, the streets grew ever more crowded and the music died down. Conversations became a bit more muted and thousands of faces turned westward, quietly waiting for the first bright starburst. From one end of the waterfront to the other, the unmistakable, sweetly pungent aroma of weed punctuated the air sporadically here and there, but by no means everywhere.
The first bomb burst went off at 8:30, neatly framing bright Venus and pale Saturn, the planetary pair soon setting due west of the cruise-ship pier. For the next 45 minutes, everyone joined together, oohing and ahhing in the universal, timeless joy of a big fireworks display.
Jeffrey and Dianne Alexis were there with two young ones: Khalina and Warren. The Alexis family has been coming to the Frederiksted 4th of July Fireworks for years.
“I know we haven’t missed a year for at least the last five years,” Jeffrey said.
“Tell the man what you think of the fireworks,” Jeffrey said to the diminutive Khalina.
“They look pretty,” Khalina said.
The bright red, white, blue, purple and green starbursts kept going in sporadic bursts; a shell or two, then a pause; a really big shell and a couple of smaller ones; starbursts that shot out in all directions, fading to an orange curtain of embers drizzling onto the sea below. Each time a bright shell burst, the sea below shined back in sympathy.
As the half-hour mark passed and the minutes kept going by, everyone knew the inevitable was fast approaching. But the charges kept coming. With each, a quiet chonk sound thumped, and if you looked closely you could see a dim orange line shooting fast and straight up into the sky, followed by some sort of starburst, just what sort exactly a little surprise of its own.
Suddenly a whole slew of charges went off; chonk, chonk, chonk, chonk, chonk, chonk, and the sky filled with many-colored lights, illuminating the smiling faces of the crowd. The inevitable climax and finale had come. Immediately, as if sent by a radio signal, a huge portion of the gathered crowd turned and began walking toward their vehicles and waiting homes, filling the streets with quiet movement.
A minute later, a single bright white flash, an unexpected late charge, burst over the waterfront and the show was over until next year.
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