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Tree Planting, Song Kick Off 3-Day Event at Roosevelt Park

Dec. 10, 2007 — "Roosevelt Park is one we have come to love," sang the Antonio Jarvis Elementary School Annex choir. "This day is a blessing from above."
Franklin Delano Roosevelt V.I. Veterans Memorial Park was formally dedicated in a Veterans Day ceremony last month, but Sunday it came to life with the blessing of dozens of young voices, with dance, with story and with a tree planting, as We From Upstreet and the Rotary Club of St. Thomas presented "Sharing Tradition wid de Younger Generation."
Sunday saw the first part of a three-day celebration extending through Tuesday evening, the first events in the newly renovated park. Last year's activities were held at Emancipation Garden.
The 238-year old park abounded with color and energy Sunday as the children lined up for their choirs, skipped on the brick pathways, and swung from the newly installed monkey bars. Though the weather wasn't cooperating, nobody seemed to mind at all. Umbrellas popped up from time to time as older folks chatted with old friends on the handsome wooden benches, or huddled together beneath white tents where food and good will were dispensed all afternoon.
Starting off the festivities, a pink cedar tree about 10 feet tall, donated by the Rotary Club and dedicated by Rotary member Yegin Habtes, was planted by the Jarvis school class of 2007. It is probably the most firmly planted tree on the island, and may be on the planet as youngster after youngster threw a shovelful of dirt on the slender tree, with first lady Cecile deJongh lending a hand to the anxious students.
Upstreet regulars dressed in bright fuscia T-shirts circulated among the crowd, helping youngsters get ready for their moments on stage. Vernon Finch, Upstreet's first president, "about 15 years ago, I think," was bursting with pride. "This event is about the youth," he said. "We always remember what it was like growing up by the park and taking care of it."
Austin "Babe" Monsanto, Upstreet chairman of the Roosevelt Park Committee, recalled growing up near the park. With a slow smile, he said, "We'd come here every day and play games, marbles, spin top, tito thun, and we'd tell ghost stories. Then we'd go home and do our homework and go to bed. There was no violence then."
Some stories were told Sunday by 16-year-old Sergio Fonseca, who, with adult aplomb, shared master of ceremony duties with Glenn "Kwabena" Davis.
Where does a youngster learn the old stories? Fonseca nodded at Davis. "He's the one," he smiled. Davis is the traditional Christmas bearer of tidings and song, choir director of Voices of Love, and now Education Department cultural coordinator.
Samantha Deserve stood with other members of the Holy Family Catholic Church Youth Choir waiting patiently to take the stage after the Gladys Abraham Elementary School Choir. A tall, slender 13-year-old, Deserve said she just moved here from Dominica this year. "I heard the choir and they were great. I wanted to join right away. People like us because we sing so well. People call us to come and perform," she said. "They like me because of my high voice."
The Holy Family Choir was in the middle of song when a sudden deluge descended; without missing a note they marched to the nearby tented stage, assembled themselves in two orderly lines and continued as professionally as a Broadway chorus.
The Jarvis school youngsters outdid themselves in a rousing rendition of "Our Roosevelt Park," led by Karen Thomas. A smiling and excited Davis enjoined the crowd to applaud the choir and its director. "They learned this in only six practices," Davis said, "and it's a new song."
Speaking later, retired music teacher Thomas said, "I taught for 32 years, and when Kwabena asked me three weeks ago we had no choir. I got the kids together twice a week for three weeks. It was a challenge," she said, "but, we pulled it off."
The song was written by Jarvis teachers Janice Gottlieb-Kennings and Debra Sharpe, and Alfred "Chubby" Lockhart wrote the music.
The afternoon was never without music or dance. The Lockhart Elementary School Quadrille dancers stepped to the beat of Feliz Navidad, dressed in bright plaid skirts, with the boys in black and white with matching cummerbunds.
The tots of the We From Upstreet Quadrille Dancers made their debut under the direction of Sandra Reed, and under the admiring eyes of all the Upstreet folk, especially past president Naomi A. Monsanto. "I'm just so proud," she said. Monsanto was a standout, herself, sporting a bright fuscia wide-brimmed bonnet matching her T-shirt.
Song was also provided by the Gladys Abraham Elementary School, Addelita Cancryn Jr. High School, Dober Elementary School Choir and Ivanna Eudora Kean High School choirs.
The magic moment arrived shortly after 6 p.m. when Cecile deJongh flipped a switch, lighting the park in a true Christmas wonderland.
Monday is Family Night with music by church gospel and senior choirs throughout the town as well as carols by Voices of Love, Party Hardies Carolers, and Milo's Kings.
Tuesday is "Quelbe & Jazz wid ah Christmas Pizazz," a night for music lovers. Kean High School Jazz Ensemble, Cliff Finch and Friends, and a Make-Up Scratch Band will make the music.
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