The final evening of summer vacation was packed with activity for St. Thomas school kids who attended Smith Bay’s annual Labor Day Extravaganza and Parade with their families on Monday.
The holiday tradition was started by the Smith Bay Community Action Foundation in 2010 and draws residents and visitors alike. All Labor Day weekend Lionel Smut Richards Park in Smith Bay becomes a miniature carnival village with food booths, a stage for live music and a children’s playground. The parade is the extravaganza’s culminating event.
“It’s family-oriented,” said SBCAF President Roy Chesterfield, a long-time officer with the Police Department. “It’s a time to wind down and get prepared for school and work.”
Chesterfield said that the SBCAF was founded with the mission of “beautifying and enhancing” the Smith Bay area and addressing community needs. The group organizes activities such as a Thanksgiving luncheon for the homeless and a Christmas toy drive, but the Labor Day Extravaganza and Parade has become one of its largest and most popular events.
Much of Monday’s parade was an encore of St. Thomas carnival parade 2015, complete with familiar faces like the Hugga Bunch troupe, the Traditional Indians, 2015 V.I. Princess T’Kajrah Wharton and the St. Thomas Majorettes, who did a lively performance on jumping stilts.
But the short parade route, which began near the old Domino gas station and ended shortly before the entrance to Margaritaville, also hosted some surprises for the crowd’s youngest members.
St. Thomas cowboy Jesse James and his pony Dragon, who sported a unicorn horn for the parade, were popular with the kids. James was happy to oblige youngsters who wanted a ride on Dragon.
The V.I. Fire Service was also represented, accompanied on the route by fire prevention mascots Smoky the Bear and Sparky the Dog. Men and women of the Fire Service handed out plastic firefighter hats to kids.
Athletes aged 5 to 13 from the USVI Soccer Association’s Grass Roots program had the opportunity to show off their skills during the parade as they dribbled a ball towards the parade’s end point. The Grass Roots program meets Saturday mornings from 9 to 11 a.m. at the Smith Bay ballpark.
“We had a great turn out this year and we’re expecting better and better things,” said Chesterfield. “I have a surprise,” he said. “I don’t want to really launch it now, but it’s something different that’s never been done in the Caribbean.”
“If it doesn’t happen next year it will be the year after that,” he added.
Chesterfield said he wants to continue to increase the number of entries who march in Smith Bay’s Labor Day parade and to turn it into event that will boost the neighborhood’s economy. Among the event’s biggest sponsors is the Department of Tourism, he said.
“We have a lot of hotels here on the East End and Smith Bay, so we want to encourage all of our guests to come be a part of what we do as well,” Chesterfield said. “This is something that could grow and perhaps we could market this event at the national level.”
In addition to the Department of Tourism, the 2015 parade’s sponsors included the West Indian Co. Ltd., Best Island Fete and MDM Inc.