May 31, 2004 – The Golden Jubilee of the St. John Fourth of July Festival got off to a glamorous start with an estimated 200 people turning out for a Black and Gold Gala at the Westin Resort.
Festival committee chair Leona Smith said the sold-out event was a good way to kick off the 50th anniversary festivities and to thank both the people who made it happen for the first time back in 1954 and those who keep it happening today.
Smith said some of the individuals recognized could not make it on Friday night, but those who were there appreciated being acknowledged for their efforts. "The honorees felt really great because they were actually looking forward to someone honoring them for their dedicated services and the time they put in years ago," she said.
The festival founders and supporters from the early days who were honored were Julius E. Sprauve Jr., Alice O'Connor, Guy Benjamin, Roy Sewer and, posthumously, Elaine Sprauve, Paula Smith and Frank Powell Sr.
Tribute also was paid at the gala to business organizations that have given financial support for the festival over the years. Two of those honorees, the Westin and Caneel Bay Resort, provided in-kind support for the ball.
Plans for the 50th anniversary of St. John's carnival celebration include reviving a number of traditional events which were dropped over the years. The kickoff event is the traditional steelpan festival in Cruz Bay Park set for Saturday.
Smith said the committee is looking forward to receiving the $250,000 appropriation from the V.I. government recently approved by Gov. Charles W. Turnbull. That's three to four times what the St. John event typically receives in public funding, but Smith said with the more extensive program planned, the additional money is needed.
The committee gets some revenue from fund-raisers and major concerts with an admission fee, she said, but most of the festival's funding comes from the government allotment. "We need some of that money so we can start paying some of the bands their deposits, especially for the Musical Mix scheduled for June 26," she said on Sunday.
After being introduced to the festival lineup several years ago, the Musical Mix quickly became the biggest box-office draw of the festival. This year, organizers plan to present as headliners the group Cameo and reggae singer Barrington Levy.
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name, and the city and state/country or island where you reside.
Publisher's note : Like the St. John Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much — and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice … click here.