Nudity, vulgarity and the simulation of sexual acts during Virgin Island festivals has been a controversial subject on social media for several years.
Sen. Myron Jackson, chairman of the Committee on Culture, Historic Preservation and Aging, opened a hearing of the committee Monday saying it was time to start the discussion in earnest.
Tanya Marie Singh, executive director of WTJX, said nudity and vulgarity were troubling issues when filming the Adult’s Parade where costumes “were covering less and less.”
She testified there were Federal Communication Commission guidelines WTJX had to follow in its broadcasts. She added the station’s camera people were often “under a lot of stress” in following those guidelines during the Adult’s Parade. She said they often had to resort to filming “from the waist up.”
When asked how these problems could be resolved Ian Turnbull, director of the Division of Festivals in the Department of Tourism, said the Division was considering forms that troupe leaders would have to sign before they could participate. The forms would outline what behavior and what costumes would be appropriate and which would be inappropriate. He said violators would be punished. The punishment could include prohibiting them from participating in future events.
Jackson said, “These are family events, not adult entertainment. Many of our residents think they have gotten out of hand.”
Jackson urged representatives of WTJX and the Division of Festivals to get together and come up with a solution.
Besides discussing live coverage of the parades, the committee heard a report from Turnbull on the 2019-2020 Crucian Christmas Festival, “What a Sight to See: Music, Culture and Pageantry.”
He said, “Finding available airline seats and hotel rooms for Crucian Christmas Festival was challenging for our team, which strongly suggests that our promotional efforts were effective.”
Accomplishments he cited were the adding of two new events to the Festival lineup: Sweet Bread Jam and Jou’Day and increasing foot traffic in the Festival Village by securing artists who attracted thousands of patrons to the Village. He added the Division was also pleased with the Carnival this year being violence free. “Safety is a big issue for us,” he said.
Senators generally expressed appreciation for the newly formed Division of Festivals. Sen. Steven Payne Sr. said, “Job well done. I was blown away. I couldn’t tell it was your first time.”
He did suggest the reviewing stand be moved from the end of the parade to the north of Frederiksted. He said that by the time many of the participants reached there they were “exhausted” and “wasted.”
The Division is looking at moving the stand. Turnbull also said the Division was looking at tightening up start and end times of the Festival Village entertainment and managing parade start times with greater efficiency. The Adult’s Parade was schedule to begin at 11 a.m. this year but did not start until 1 p.m. The Division is also considering diversifying the entertainment in the Village to draw visitors of different musical tastes.
The senators questioned Turnbull about preparations for the upcoming St. Thomas and St. John festivals. Turnbull said between 50 and 60 percent of the preparation was done for the St. Thomas Festival and about 25 percent for St. John’s. Answering a question from Payne, he said a director for the St. John parade would be hired soon.
Attending the hearing were Sens. Dwayne DeGraff, Stedmann Hodge Jr., Jackson, Javan James, Payne, Janelle Sarauw, Athneil Thomas and Kurt Vialet.