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Labor Day Parade Marches on Despite Turmoil

Sept. 5, 2005 – Coral Bay, St. John's Labor Day parade was a tad smaller than usual with only about a half dozen entries and a sparse crowd out to enjoy the event.
It's hard to know why people stayed away, but the island's recent racial tensions coupled with the tragedy caused by Hurricane Katrina may have been factors, several residents speculated.
The Middle Age Majorettes, in addition to strutting their stuff, were collecting money for Hurricane Katrina victims.
"Those people are suffering like we've never suffered," Middle Age Majorette Deanna Somerville said, referring to the damage caused by past hurricanes that hit St. John. She said that when hurricanes hit, St. John residents have cisterns for water and the ability to clean up the roads themselves.
Somerville said that St. John residents are used to working together when hard times hit.
St. John Administrator Julien Harley echoed her remarks. Referring to the racial tensions that surfaced last week at a couple of meetings and with the alleged torching of Bob Sells' Jeep and business, Close Reach Imports, Harley said St. John should solve its own problems without influence from others.
"Let's respect each other. For years, that's the way we have lived on St. John," he said.
He called on residents to wait for answers from federal and local investigators regarding a reported rape and racial epithets that have been written on the victim's car.
While the latest chapter in this story unfolded, Harley was in Anchorage, Alaska, attending the National Emergency Managers Association conference. He said he was getting frequent phone reports.
There were no problems reported over the weekend, he said.
Harley said that St. John needs events like the fish fries that once were held at Pond Mouth to bring island residents together. And he said that sports teams from the private and public schools should play each other so the participants would get to know each other.
Bonny Corbeil, who is white, and Wayne Clendinen, who is black, were doing their part to promote harmony by marching together in the parade.
"Wayne and I love our island, and we're representative of two people who live in harmony," Corbeil said.
Although Hurricane Katrina's aftermath and the recent racial tensions appear to have cast a bit of a pall over the Labor Day festivities, some stalwarts were still on hand.
The John's Folly Learning Institute was selling fish, chicken, pate, johnny cake, and sodas to raise money to send its youthful members to Washington, D.C., next summer.
"We want to expose them to how government works," the organization's president, Alvis Christian, said.
The Love City Pan Dragons entertained at the Guy Benjamin School field.
"They've just come off vacation, so they haven't really practiced," president Corrine Matthias said. The youthful steel pan group sounded just as fine as ever, however.
Dana Bartlett was on hand with her donkey cart and horses to raise money for the Animal Care Center of St. John.
Crabby's Watersports conjured up a float with a kayak in the back called Crabby Driver.
And of course, the parade had a beauty queen at its head – in this case Miss St. John Junior Miss, Daniella Bridgewater.

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