April 30, 2005 "Peaceful," "quiet," "smaller," "less elaborate," "all about the Virgin Islands," "more social commentary than usual," were a few ways participants in and at Adults' Parade described this year's grand finale to the St. Thomas Carnival celebration.
But despite the subdued feeling that seemed to permeate the festivities, the annual cultural event was no less colorful or spirited than any other year.
And it kept with tradition. It started late. It was hot. And people came from near and far to take part in the V.I. spectacle of sight and sound.
"I've been to 17 Carnivals," said Baltimore resident Ernestine Uncles, "And I've been in two."
Uncles' daughter Lisa has been on St. Thomas for 20 years, one reason her mother keeps coming back. But Terran Carney, who was attending his first Carnival, and who has no such reason for returning said, "I'll be back next year."
Grand Marshall Clement "Cain " Magras entered Alvarado DeLugo Sr. Post Office Square, where the reviewing stands were set up, around 11:30 a.m. And the Traditional Indians wrapped up the parade, as they always do, at 7 p.m. as twilight was painting the square pink and gold.
Throughout the day umbrellas nearly as colorful as the costumes dotted the parade route as spectators shielding themselves from the sun watched nearly 50 troupes, floupes, steel bands and other entrants make their way down Main Street.
The absence of huge, impassible throngs of people along the entire route was noticeable, but the exhibition stops along the way were packed as usual.
Speculation was raised throughout the day that the controversy that arose after last year's fete when Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg asked the Carnival committee to open their books, and they refused, caused some loss of gaiety and participation this year.
But you couldn't see much absence of gaiety in those jumpin' up, posturing and playing as they made their way up the street.
Large gaps between the groups who started earliest caused some grumbling, but by early afternoon the parade was moving to its own rhythm as one group after another made its way past the governor and other dignitaries shielded in covered viewing stands erected for the occasion.
Gov. Charles W. Turnbull said, "There's been a lot of social commentary," adding that the event had also been, "peaceful."
Earlier in the day, Turnbull, with former Delegate Ron "Mango Jones" de Lugo looking on, had officiated over the "Carnival political marriage" of Sens. Celestino A. White Sr. and Lorraine L. Berry, as the two former political foes performed a satiric ritual referencing their recent alliance in forming the Senate majority.
White marched up the street dressed in a formal black suit with a blonde bride doll attached to his side.
Once in the square, he and Berry, who moved from her place in the stands to the street, took their wedding vows to the wild delight of the crowd. White placed a ring on Berry's finger and declared, "Yes I do," when asked if he would take Berry to be his "lawful political" wife.
White later told the Source, even if they had to take counseling he and Berry were "working to make sure it lasts." At the time that White and Berry developed their political partnership, which helped land Berry the position of Legislature president after the last election, many predicted it wouldn't last.
White also commented on Berry's husband, Richard, being a good sport in going along with the fun.
In further political antics, Gilbert Sprauve, a professor and political commentator noted for his clever individual entries, made his way up the street with a three-foot-tall book titled, "History for Dummies." On the back cover of the book, Sprauve had drawn non-likenesses of George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice, Tony Blair and Colin Powell. Inside the book was the "history" of how the myth of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq had shaped history. Sprauve's book was published by "Hot Air Press, Ltd." the book jacket showed.
In a twist in tradition, the Gypsies came up the street dressed as court jesters. One person suggested the theme might have been related to an old story that has children of Gypsy troupe members forming the Jesters troupe to break away from their parents.
But one long-time Jester set the record straight. "The Gypsies have finally learned how to be Jesters," Etienne Bertrand explained matter of factly.
Bertrand said the original Jesters were formed by a few children of Gypsies, but also several others in the early 1960s, but broke up when most of the members went off to college and to work in the states in '68 or '69.
Ten or so years later, when many of the former members returned home, the group got together with members of the disbanded Raunchy Bunch and reformed the Jesters.
Eddie de Lagarde, also a dedicated Jester, explained the essence of "Jesterism."
"It's all about attitude … it's all about the party," de Lagarde said, adding this year marked the first time in 25 years that he hadn't participated in the parade. "I just wanted to watch."
Among the government officials watching in the viewing stands were some guests five travel writers from New York, Atlanta, Nebraska and Las Vegas. Pamela Richards, Tourism commissioner, said they had been especially invited to come for Carnival.
Closer to home, the Gentlemen of Jones, dressed in white tie, tails and shorts had come from St. Croix to participate in the festivities. Marc Biggs, Property and Procurement commissioner, attorney Derek Hodge, Hubert Greigg and Alan Richardson were among the "gentlemen" who performed a choreographed routine for the onlookers.
Richards explained the history of the group of men who formed the non-profit organization. "They used to sit around Jones' Bar on St. Croix and talk about what they could do for the community," she said, adding that, "They do all kinds of things." What Richards said she liked most about the group of men was, "They come from all strata of society." In many cases the only thing they have in common is a desire to do good works, she said.
On Saturday, they had come to have fun.
Richards said she was particularly glad to watch the steel pan band leaders coaching the young members of the steel bands and in so doing, passing on V.I. culture to the youngsters.
Richards said she felt that Carnival 2005 was "all about the Virgin Islands." Lt. Gov. Vargrave Richards echoed those sentiments, saying Saturday's themes seemed to be "centered around the V.I."
One troupe zeroed in on the hottest topic of the day. The Jesters presented "A Carnival Catastrophy." The members were dressed as giant rats. "We have four rats," Jester member Richard Brown said as he danced his way through Post Office Square. "We've got one executive director rat, one senator rat, one policeman rat and one auditor rat," referring to the players involved in the melee that had arisen over Carnival finances.
"Carnival is alive, not because of the rats of 2005," Brown said playing on this Carnival year's theme Alive in 2005.
Despite the controversy, despite a shortage of funds, despite a few detractors Carnival was alive, if not totally well, on Saturday.
And if you use Bertrand's definition there was no fault to be found anywhere.
"Carnival is all about fun."
Editor's note: For a photo journey through Carnival 2005 go to Community/Other stuff. Images will be uploaded for the next few days.
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