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HomeNewsArchivesLEONA SMITH'S TEAM APPROACH TO FESTIVAL WORKS

LEONA SMITH'S TEAM APPROACH TO FESTIVAL WORKS

Delivering a festival on time and within budget is the challenge facing Leona Smith, chair of the St. John Festival & Cultural Organization, the entity which produces the island's annual Fourth of July Celebration.
Like her counterparts for St. Thomas's V.I. Carnival and St. Croix's Crucian Christmas Festival, Smith finds herself running the annual event with less government money this fiscal year than last. In the case of St. John, the budget was cut by a third – to $50,000 from $75,000.
But after a little adjustment to the schedule and a lot of advance work securing private-sector sponsors, Smith said she's confident the celebration will break even.
"The only decision weighted by financial concerns was to shorten the village to six days," she said. This year's village, honoring Harry Daniel, will open on Thursday, instead of the usual Monday before the week of the Fourth of July finale.
Smith said she gets her work done with the help of 15 die-hard volunteers, some of whom have been helping put together what's traditionally been called the Fourth of July Celebration for more than 20 years.
Half a dozen committee members are responsible for overseeing the prince and princess pageant, the queen show, the festival bicycle race, the village operations, Pan-O-Rama and the fireworks. In addition to chairing the overall festival committee, Smith also organizes the food fair and the Fourth of July parade.
Private and/or not-for-profit promoters mobilize their own resources and produce other official festival events – this year, the Calypso Show, the Boat Show and Boat Race, Children's Village and the Emancipation Day cultural program. Some rely on corporate sponsor; the children's program is presented by the St. John Community Foundation in cooperation with other community entities.
The V.I. National Park puts on the July 3 Cultural Day program in Cruz Bay. Park ranger Denise Georges, who also organizes the annual Annaberg Cultural Fair for Black History Month each February, says she held the first Cultural Day observance on Emancipation Day in 1996 as a way to remind people of the holiday's historic significance.
"It's really for emancipation and to remind people of the hardship. I really think we've lost the meaning of our celebration," Georges said.
Overall, committee volunteers start their planning for the next festival almost as soon as the last rocket fades from the Fourth of July sky on the one before, Smith said. Monthly meetings begin in August or September. By April, the committee is getting together once a week.
Having volunteers coordinate their own events makes it possible for Smith to concentrate on the ones she runs, she said. "It frees me a little, but I still have to be there to make sure" that everything runs smoothly, she said.
And when that's the case, the other volunteers help out around the concession stand.
Two of this year's early events showed signs of the new financial order – a listing of sponsors printed on the program booklets and proudly announced by event organizers.
The solicitation approach, Smith said, was to target potential sponsors and "write them a letter and give them a schedule. . . and ask them which events they wanted to sponsor."
The solicitation is ongoing, right down to the wire. This year, the committee has to cover the cost of the new stage purchased for the calypso show, prince and princess pageant and queen competition. And then, there's the fireworks.
The cost of the big bangs is pegged at $26,500 for this year's festival. So far, $10,000 has been raised, half of it sponsorship by Southern Energy Inc., the administration's proposed private-sector partner of the Water and Power Authority.
"We could use a few more sponsors," said Mary Hildebrand of the St. John Accommodations Council, who has been coordinating the fireworks finale of the Fourth of July Celebration for the last five years. She said solicitation from local businesses is continuing. "What we have to offer sponsors is good placement of their company banners in the waterfront area," she said, "and we still have some radio spot time."

Editor's note: For a separate story on St. John's Children's Carnival, click on Things to do.

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Delivering a festival on time and within budget is the challenge facing Leona Smith, chair of the St. John Festival & Cultural Organization, the entity which produces the island's annual Fourth of July Celebration.
Like her counterparts for St. Thomas's V.I. Carnival and St. Croix's Crucian Christmas Festival, Smith finds herself running the annual event with less government money this fiscal year than last. In the case of St. John, the budget was cut by a third – to $50,000 from $75,000.
But after a little adjustment to the schedule and a lot of advance work securing private-sector sponsors, Smith said she's confident the celebration will break even.
"The only decision weighted by financial concerns was to shorten the village to six days," she said. This year's village, honoring Harry Daniel, will open on Thursday, instead of the usual Monday before the week of the Fourth of July finale.
Smith said she gets her work done with the help of 15 die-hard volunteers, some of whom have been helping put together what's traditionally been called the Fourth of July Celebration for more than 20 years.
Half a dozen committee members are responsible for overseeing the prince and princess pageant, the queen show, the festival bicycle race, the village operations, Pan-O-Rama and the fireworks. In addition to chairing the overall festival committee, Smith also organizes the food fair and the Fourth of July parade.
Private and/or not-for-profit promoters mobilize their own resources and produce other official festival events – this year, the Calypso Show, the Boat Show and Boat Race, Children's Village and the Emancipation Day cultural program. Some rely on corporate sponsor; the children's program is presented by the St. John Community Foundation in cooperation with other community entities.
The V.I. National Park puts on the July 3 Cultural Day program in Cruz Bay. Park ranger Denise Georges, who also organizes the annual Annaberg Cultural Fair for Black History Month each February, says she held the first Cultural Day observance on Emancipation Day in 1996 as a way to remind people of the holiday's historic significance.
"It's really for emancipation and to remind people of the hardship. I really think we've lost the meaning of our celebration," Georges said.
Overall, committee volunteers start their planning for the next festival almost as soon as the last rocket fades from the Fourth of July sky on the one before, Smith said. Monthly meetings begin in August or September. By April, the committee is getting together once a week.
Having volunteers coordinate their own events makes it possible for Smith to concentrate on the ones she runs, she said. "It frees me a little, but I still have to be there to make sure" that everything runs smoothly, she said.
And when that's the case, the other volunteers help out around the concession stand.
Two of this year's early events showed signs of the new financial order – a listing of sponsors printed on the program booklets and proudly announced by event organizers.
The solicitation approach, Smith said, was to target potential sponsors and "write them a letter and give them a schedule. . . and ask them which events they wanted to sponsor."
The solicitation is ongoing, right down to the wire. This year, the committee has to cover the cost of the new stage purchased for the calypso show, prince and princess pageant and queen competition. And then, there's the fireworks.
The cost of the big bangs is pegged at $26,500 for this year's festival. So far, $10,000 has been raised, half of it sponsorship by Southern Energy Inc., the administration's proposed private-sector partner of the Water and Power Authority.
"We could use a few more sponsors," said Mary Hildebrand of the St. John Accommodations Council, who has been coordinating the fireworks finale of the Fourth of July Celebration for the last five years. She said solicitation from local businesses is continuing. "What we have to offer sponsors is good placement of their company banners in the waterfront area," she said, "and we still have some radio spot time."

Editor's note: For a separate story on St. John's Children's Carnival, click on Things to do.