Festival’s fun comes at a price. Festival Committee Chairman Leona Smith said the entire event has a projected budget of about $350,000, with the local government expected to come up with $240,000.
However, Smith said the local government usually doesn’t give the Festival Committee its full allotment. She said the rest of the money comes from sponsorships and proceeds from events.
“It’s an expensive venture,” Smith said.
A lot of the money—about $200,000—goes to pay for the bands and entertainers that perform at various activities and in the Village.
“Festival is getting so famous because of the entertainment,” Smith said.
The Miss St. John Pageant alone costs about $50,000 to $60,000 to put on. The winners also get prizes, including $5,000 to the person who captures the crown.
This year’s winner was St. Thomas resident Kinia Blyden, 17, who captured the crown June 25 in a pageant that saw a bit of controversy when one of the contestants, 17-year-old Kimberly Paul, dropped out just three days before the event. Smith said the committee wants the $2,500 back it gave Paul to help defray the costs of costumes and other expenses.
“It’s foolishness. My position is she pays it back. We have to recoup our losses,” she said.
According to Smith, Paul signed a contract indicating that she would pay back the money if she failed to compete. Smith said Paul did promise to pay some of the money back, but she said the committee wants it all back.
Miss St. John Pageant Chairman Enid Doway and Smith both pinned her dropping out on bad advice from chaperones whose contestants lost in previous pageants. Doway added that they told her the costumes and clothing she had purchased with the $2,500 weren’t good enough for the show.
“It was a matter of opinion,” Doway said.
The Festival Committee opened the Miss St. John pageant to St. Thomas young women because not enough from St. John are willing to participate.
However, Festival is more than just the Village and Miss St. John pageant. Smith said the fireworks run $30,000.
While the Festival Committee had to give up giving monetary prizes to parade category winners because it couldn’t afford them, it pays transportation for groups that don’t live on St. John. Smith said that runs about $10,000.
The boat races cost the committee $7,100 in prize money, with another $4,000 going in prizes to the winners of the bicycle race.
The Festival provides a significant economic boost for the island, Smith said.
“The hotels are filled for the weekend. That’s thousands of dollars into the government coffers,” she said, referring to the taxes paid by the hotels and other businesses frequented by the visitors.
St. John’s Festival upcoming events include Wednesday’s Village opening at 7 p.m. and Sunday’s Cultural Day at 3 p.m. Bands will play in the Village each night after it opens until July 4. The event wraps up Monday with the traditional July 4 parade through the streets of Cruz Bay at 11 a.m. and fireworks over Cruz Bay Harbor at 9 p.m.