Though the festivities were light, the evening started out on a somber note as the crowd paid tribute to Karence DeCosta, last year's Carnival queen, who died in a car accident last year shortly after her high school graduation. Lorna Freeman-Dennis, DeCosta's former chaperone, sang Beyonce's "Halo" as a tribute and said it was the last song she had practiced with DeCosta.
"She was such a remarkable individual," Freeman-Dennis said.
The three young women gearing up for their chance at the title told their own stories Saturday night, appearing before a crowd of their friends, family and Virgin Islands Carnival Committee officials. Anonymous judges in the audience were asked to score the ladies on how appropriately they were dressed, their social etiquette and the content of their speech.
No stranger to the pageant world, the first contestant this year is Razzilee O'quendo, who was crowned St. John princess in 1998 and Miss St. John in 2008. An honors student at Ivanna Eudora Kean High School, O'quendo said she plans to attend Emory School of Medicine when she graduates this year.
"My life's mission is to provide women with the best health care services regardless of their financial status," she said.
The second contestant is Britanny Robinson, a senior at Charlotte Amalie High School who boasts a long list of extracurricular activities. She is involved in sports clubs, is a member of the CAHS student council, National Honor Society and the Junior Statesmen of America. After high school, she plans to major in biology and communications at the University of Miami.
"After college, I plan to intern at both the police and tourism departments, at which I can give back to my community," Robinson said.
Shawntay Henry, the third Carnival Queen contestant, had the crowd going with a Carnival poem that gave everyone a taste of her abilities as a national Poetry Out Loud champion. Henry is vice-president of her senior class at Charlotte Amalie High School, president of the school's National Honor Society and the current Miss CAHS. She is also the president of Graffiti Street, which she said is preparing her for a career in broadcast journalism.
"You may very well be looking at the next Oprah," Henry said.
This year's Carnival Queen Show takes place at 8 p.m. April 17 at the Lionel Roberts Stadium on St. Thomas.