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HomeNewsArchivesELVES IN ORANGE MAKE THE SEASON BRIGHT

ELVES IN ORANGE MAKE THE SEASON BRIGHT

Dec. 17, 2001 – Neither sleet nor snow, which aren't really a problem, nor torrential rains, which are, have put a damper on Edgar "Baker" Phillips and his small band of rather large elves, a couple of them from St. Croix, who have been busily brightening up St. Thomas for the last few weeks.
Trimming the Christmas tree at Rothschild Francis "Market" Square Monday afternoon while dodging yet another deluge, Baker was philosophic about the weather. "We work as long as we can, then we duck in, and as soon as it holds up, we're out there," he said with his trademark grin. "We've got to keep moving — Christmas is just around the corner."
Baker is an old hand at decorating St. Thomas for Santa. He's been at it for 14 years with his somewhat unusual assistants, prisoners who are out on work release. This year, his crew includes two helpers from last Christmas, along with two new recruits.
Mason Grinnell, 32, and Lando Brown, 30, are making their second and what both hope is their last Christmas appearance in orange pants. Both are scheduled to be released soon. Brown plans to go home to St. Croix, where he hopes to work as an auto mechanic, and Grinnell, who is winding up a 10-year sentence, will head for California to see his mother, who hasn't seen him for several years.
Newcomer Harley Wilcox, 53, beamed at the idea of having his picture taken. "This will be the first time in years it hasn't been for a mug shot," he quipped as Baker looked on shaking his head. Angel Navarro, the youngest crewman at 22, also welcomed the idea of a picture. "I'm going home to St. Croix in two months," the 1999 Central High School graduate said, adding that he plans to try out for the National Guard when he's released.
"Come on, let's take the picture. We've got work to do," Baker said, showing no reluctance to be in it, himself. They still had to decorate the actual Market Square tree; the one they had just finished there was going to Mandela Circle.
In the last three weeks the crew has decorated Government House, Emancipation Garden, Education Park, Roosevelt Park, the Skyline Drive overlook, Fort Christian, and just about any other public place you might see, including the little tree in the triangle by Frank's Bakery in Sub Base.
"You should mention Gov. Charles Wesley Turnbull has been behind us," Baker said. "He has a strong passion for Christmas, and he likes lots of lights, bright, colored lights. He even went to Puerto Rico to pick out trees and lights, out of his own pocket."
An obvious fan of the governor's, Baker continued, "He's a historian, you know. When we were moving his archives to Government House, I even saw a high school picture of myself. There were lots of crumbling papers in the things he had, but he wouldn't let us throw anything away."
Phillips is special projects director for the Property and Procurement Department and a member of the Committee to Revive our Culture, which also decorated Emancipation Garden.
The work-release decorating is jointly supervised by the Justice Department, the Offices of the Governor and the St. Thomas Administrator, and Property and Procurement. Only inmates who are drug-free and in good standing get the Christmas duty.
Wilcox looked something like Santa himself with a huge, bushy white beard until the other day. "I go before the parole board next week, so I shaved," he explained. He and Grinnell grinned at the prospect of getting out soon, but one said, "You know, we're sort of like a family by now."
A year ago, Grinnell's mother saw his picture in the first Christmas decorating story posted on St. Thomas Source and wrote the newspaper to express her appreciation. "Can you e-mail her and let her know about this one?" Grinnell asked. "I'd sure be happy."

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Dec. 17, 2001 - Neither sleet nor snow, which aren't really a problem, nor torrential rains, which are, have put a damper on Edgar "Baker" Phillips and his small band of rather large elves, a couple of them from St. Croix, who have been busily brightening up St. Thomas for the last few weeks.
Trimming the Christmas tree at Rothschild Francis "Market" Square Monday afternoon while dodging yet another deluge, Baker was philosophic about the weather. "We work as long as we can, then we duck in, and as soon as it holds up, we're out there," he said with his trademark grin. "We've got to keep moving -- Christmas is just around the corner."
Baker is an old hand at decorating St. Thomas for Santa. He's been at it for 14 years with his somewhat unusual assistants, prisoners who are out on work release. This year, his crew includes two helpers from last Christmas, along with two new recruits.
Mason Grinnell, 32, and Lando Brown, 30, are making their second and what both hope is their last Christmas appearance in orange pants. Both are scheduled to be released soon. Brown plans to go home to St. Croix, where he hopes to work as an auto mechanic, and Grinnell, who is winding up a 10-year sentence, will head for California to see his mother, who hasn't seen him for several years.
Newcomer Harley Wilcox, 53, beamed at the idea of having his picture taken. "This will be the first time in years it hasn't been for a mug shot," he quipped as Baker looked on shaking his head. Angel Navarro, the youngest crewman at 22, also welcomed the idea of a picture. "I'm going home to St. Croix in two months," the 1999 Central High School graduate said, adding that he plans to try out for the National Guard when he's released.
"Come on, let's take the picture. We've got work to do," Baker said, showing no reluctance to be in it, himself. They still had to decorate the actual Market Square tree; the one they had just finished there was going to Mandela Circle.
In the last three weeks the crew has decorated Government House, Emancipation Garden, Education Park, Roosevelt Park, the Skyline Drive overlook, Fort Christian, and just about any other public place you might see, including the little tree in the triangle by Frank's Bakery in Sub Base.
"You should mention Gov. Charles Wesley Turnbull has been behind us," Baker said. "He has a strong passion for Christmas, and he likes lots of lights, bright, colored lights. He even went to Puerto Rico to pick out trees and lights, out of his own pocket."
An obvious fan of the governor's, Baker continued, "He's a historian, you know. When we were moving his archives to Government House, I even saw a high school picture of myself. There were lots of crumbling papers in the things he had, but he wouldn't let us throw anything away."
Phillips is special projects director for the Property and Procurement Department and a member of the Committee to Revive our Culture, which also decorated Emancipation Garden.
The work-release decorating is jointly supervised by the Justice Department, the Offices of the Governor and the St. Thomas Administrator, and Property and Procurement. Only inmates who are drug-free and in good standing get the Christmas duty.
Wilcox looked something like Santa himself with a huge, bushy white beard until the other day. "I go before the parole board next week, so I shaved," he explained. He and Grinnell grinned at the prospect of getting out soon, but one said, "You know, we're sort of like a family by now."
A year ago, Grinnell's mother saw his picture in the first Christmas decorating story posted on St. Thomas Source and wrote the newspaper to express her appreciation. "Can you e-mail her and let her know about this one?" Grinnell asked. "I'd sure be happy."