There were fewer troupes on the route Friday and the crowds were sparse, but this year’s Children’s Carnival Parade – with its fast-paced lineup of prince, princesses, majorettes and steel pan orchestras – had as much energy as any other.
Leading the parade behind the grand marshal was Carnival Princess Laila Eveyln and her 2016 court. Dressed in a long pink gown with a feathered skirt, Evelyn’s wide smile seemed to set the tone for the morning, and the court behind her were just as enthusiastic as they waved to the crowd while moving up the parade route.
“It has been such a wonderful few weeks,” Evelyn said Friday as she took her first steps toward Post Office Square. “My favorite event so far has been the Toddler Derby, because it’s always so much fun seeing the kids, like me, participating in the cultural games.”
“It’s really great,” she said, adding that she’s looking forward to “seeing everyone perform in their wonderful costumes.”
Evelyn didn’t have long to wait Friday, as the Sebastian Majorettes – traditionally the first group to perform behind the royalty – strode down the Waterfront in sparkling, printed bodysuits that longtime member Shawn-Michael Malone said celebrated the evolution of the parade.
“Today we’re doing a presentation called ‘Fabuleux Carnavale,’” Malone said. “You know, during the Carnival season, you hear words like ‘J’ouvert’ and ‘fete,’ which are French, and we wanted to recognize that part of our culture while also paying tribute to the parade.”
Malone said, “Our first section is our entry in to Post Office Square and the second and third entries honor the steel pans, the Traditional Indians and the majorettes.”
The group’s senior members, including award-winning twirler Joel Claudio, brought up the rear in glittering purple bodysuits. Malone said next year the troupe will be doing a silver and white theme in honor of the group’s 60th anniversary, along with the 2017 Transfer Day Centennial and the 65th anniversary of Carnival.
Coming over Friday from the big island, the St. Croix Majorettes also dazzled the crowd with their bright green and orange costumes and tie-dyed flags that flew high in the air as members danced to the theme song from the movie “Rio 2.”
While the sounds of calypso and soca tunes blasted from trolleys escorting the other troupes up the road, the St. Croix Majorettes had residents on the sidelines clapping with their Latin-inspired music, which organizer Diana Garcia said was carefully chosen for the day.
“We wanted to portray all the beautiful creatures from the movie, like the parrots,” Garcia said. “When we were thinking about costumes, we also loved the royal blue and orange, and the bright greens that represents the jungle trees.”
Garcia said the group has been participating in the parade since 1974 and looks forward to it every year.
“Every time we are here, we love it,” she said. “The students love it and they always have so much fun.”
The Sebastian Majorettes’ tribute to the pans of Carnival was not lost on the Ulla F. Muller Elementary School’s “Panatics” steel orchestra, whose organizers stood Friday admiring the costumes as the group took a break two stops ahead.
“It’s nice to have recognition for the steel pan groups because there’s really a lot of hard work that goes into preparing the students for the parade,” said Muller’s assistant principal, Kimbolie Torres. “Our students practice an average of three times a week learning a variety of songs, tunes from not only local artists but international ones as well, for everyone to enjoy.”
The Panatics’ double-decker trolley headed the steel pan line Friday and bounced up the road as the students played everything from old Carnival songs to new contemporary ones. Following behind were steel pan orchestras from Lockhart Elementary, Joseph Sibilly Elementary and Addelita Cancryn Junior High schools, along with the St. Thomas All Stars Steel Band and the Rising Stars Steel Orchestra.
And as the pans headed up Main Street, members of the Cultivating Inclusion Fun Troupe were gearing up for their own routine, which was meant to send a positive message to residents – especially children – with disabilities in the community.
Organizer Jamila Russell said this was the first time the troupe was participating in the St. Thomas parade and that the reason for them entering was to give the students in the group a chance to experience something they never had before.
Russell, the territorial Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator for the government, said the purpose of the group was to promote inclusion for individuals with disabilities throughout the community.
“When picking the theme, the children decided that they wanted to show what they wanted to be when they grow up, so we ordered a whole bunch of costumes and out here you’ll see police officers, firemen, nurses and dancers,” Russell said.
“It’s a positive way of highlighting our goal of providing opportunities for all individuals with disabilities to become fully included within the community.”