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Charlotte Amalie
Tuesday, May 21, 2024


Starting Monday, for the eighth straight year, the St. John Festival – also known as the island's Fourth of July Celebration – will have something neither of the territory's other two carnivals has: a locally organized and operated Children's Village.
The project was conceived and brought into being by the St. John Community Foundation, which continues to be the main mover. This year, foundation executive director Mary Blazine said, two other groups are involved – Pine Peace School and the Family Career Community Leaders of America group at the Julius E. Sprauve School.
The idea came about eight years ago, Blazine said, because in the festival programing at that point, "there was nothing for the children. The carnival village just revolves around drinking and eating and music so loud your ears hurt. We thought it was important to give the children a place to be, with things to do."
Located in the V.I. National Park Visitor Center parking lot under the "tourist corral" tents as well as in the open air, the village is operated as a drug- and alcohol-free environment. It will be open nightly from 6 to 10 p.m. Monday through July 3.
Blazine noted that while the sponsoring organizations will have greeters and overseers on the premises at all times, the Children's Village is not a "baby-sitting" operation, and small children should be accompanied by adult supervisors or older siblings while in the area.
The kids' village this year will feature games of chance and skill such as a wheel of fortune, "strong man" test, bullseye crossbow, basketball toss, balloon darts and ring toss. For the smaller children, Blazine said, "there's a little duck pond where they fish and catch little fish and ducks, and everybody wins a prize."
Cold soft drinks, cotton candy and popcorn will be available, and the Sprauve FCCLA students will be selling chocolate bars as a separate fund-raising project.
The revenues from the tickets sold for the games and refreshments will be divided among the three sponsoring organizations, Blazine said, and the Community Foundation will redistribute its part of the proceeds in the form of "mini-grants to school groups and other youth organizations on St. John throughout the year."
She said the village operation relies on "incredible volunteer work and the many businesses that give us donations." Major sponsors of this year's Children's Village are The West Indian Company Ltd., V.I. Telephone Corp., Caribbean Villas of St. John, AT&T of the Virgin Islands and Baker Magras & Associates.
This year, the undertaking has added an adults-only component. "For the first time, we are having bingo for the adults – for ages 18 and older," Blazine said. The foundation has secured the requisite permit from the Licensing and Consumer Affairs Department, she said, and games will be called continuously during the hours the Children's Village is open.
Also for adults, there'll be a raffle for a donated week's stay at Villa Claudia, a luxury rental property on the island. Raffle tickets, priced at $5, will be available any time the village is open, and the winner will be drawn at the end.
And, oh, yes, the village will feature a clown to entertain the kids. The person behind the funny face and fright wig will be none other than Blazine herself. "I couldn't get anybody else to do it this year," she said cheerfully, "but it's working out perfectly. My outfits are taken care of for a week."

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