Independence Day met Caribbean culture as St. John celebrated July 4th with its Festival parade through the streets of Cruz Bay. More American flags were visible than in years past—both being carried by parade attendees and on the 50 floupes that participated. The Westin Resort and Villas caught everyone’s attention as it saluted the troops with its star-spangled floupe.
“I thought it was time,” Westin manager Mike Ryan said of why the hotel staff picked the theme.
The Westin’s float, which featured two pieces of artillery, carried a list of nearly 50 names of Westin staff and their relatives who are currently serving in the military.
Some troupe members wore army green outfits a tad different than those worn in the war zone. Others wore royal blue outfits with a navy theme, and some were clad in predominantly white with red and blue. The troupe members passed out U.S. and V.I. flags for the hundreds of people who lined the parade route to wave as the Westin troupe passed by.
Although their costumes reflected the colors of the U.S. flag, the troupe members got down and dirty to the Carnival song “Push.”
Even Afro-Caribbean Mas troupe from St. Thomas got into the patriotic mode. While most of the troupe wore traditional burlap, some wore white, and one as dressed in red and blue.
“Our costumes represent African heritage and culture, but we have incorporated modern day costumes,” troupe spokesman Paul Alexander said.
The parade, which began only 40 minutes past the scheduled 11 a.m. start, featured entries from St. John, St. Thomas and even Atlanta.
The V.I. Majorettes of Atlanta came to honor the late Lorraine Fleming, who died in an Alabama car crash in 2010. She was originally from St. John, and the 20 majorettes all have V.I. roots.
“We came as a tribute,” Nicole Roebuck Warner said.
Warner, the daughter of the late Sen. Elmo Roebuck, organized the majorettes’ first appearance at a St. John Festival parade.
The Guy Benjamin School Superheroes were 25 strong.
“The theme is seeing the world through education,” said Guy Benjamin teacher Lisa Penn.
St. John resident Edna Freeman led the parade as the grand marshal.
“I feel happy and proud and honored to be the parade marshal on the island on which I was born,” Freeman said.
The parade brought out visitors from across the country.
“We enjoyed the music over here Saturday night, and we’re back today for the fun,” said Ernest Phillips of Stockbridge, Ga.
He and his wife, Linda, are on vacation on St. Thomas to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary.
Rochelle Smith came from Edison, N.J., to celebrate her birthday and to enjoy the parade.
“We love it. It’s colorful, lively, and it’s always late. It’s very different than a parade down 5th Avenue,” she said, referring to events held in New York City.
Gov. John deJongh Jr. made his traditional walk along the parade route greeting residents and visitors alike. He said he likes St. John’s Festival because of the “closeness.”
“And the quality of the acts,” he said, referring to the entertainment in the Festival village.