Feb. 27, 2007 — We are the oldest Carnival in the Caribbean, said Carnival Committee Chairman Kenneth Blake, indicating that they are on a quest to make St. Thomas Carnival No. 1 again.
We have slipped a little over the past few years, and we want to regain that spot, he said.
Those were some of the remarks at the opening press conference for Carnival 2007, which took place at the Palms Court Harborview resort on Tuesday morning.
Blake announced that this years theme is long, but says it all: Its a Birthday Celebration! 55 years of Culture, Mas and Rhythm for Carnival 2007.
The 2007 celebration is in honor of trumpeter Sergio Bolo Feliciano and the V.I. National Guard.
V.I. Carnival is known as one of the top five Carnivals in the world, but Blake admitted to a slippage in the last several years due to a lack of funding. Sponsors are still being sought, but he says that financing is in better shape this year.
Executive Director Caswil D. Callender reiterated that Carnival is big business for the territory. Even its harshest critics will admit that, he said, adding that Carnival dramatically impacts the local economy, bringing in thousands of visitors and $65 million.
A schedule of events in both English and, for the first time, Spanish, was distributed in the press packs. This year Carnival will start on Sunday, April 8 with the selection of the 2007 Prince and Princess at Lionel Roberts Stadium.
In an effort to draw more youth participation, for the first time the schools of the prince, princess and queen will receive a $2,000 stipend to use as they see fit.
The criteria for queen will change to match those of the Miss World contest. It is no longer just about looks and beauty, says Blake.
Blake encouraged the media to announce that the 2006 Carnival Financial Report was also being released. He hoped that it would allay the fears and inquires that have been so prevalent in years past. However, the long-awaited audit has not been released. He said the audit had yet to be submitted to the Inspector General but would be within two weeks.
Blake indicated there were areas of concern, as well as areas demonstrating success, but he did not elaborate.
Blake repeatedly stressed that this year an emphasis would be put on safety and punctuality. He encouraged bands and troupes to make the extra effort to show up on time. The V.I. Police Department, he added, will more vigilantly address problems of public drinking, rowdiness and will strictly enforce parking restrictions.
Unlike former Gov. Charles Turnbull, who did not meet with the committee his last two years in office, Gov. John deJongh Jr. has already met with them twice.
At Tuesday's press conference, there was much good-natured banter between Blake and acting St. Thomas-Water Island Administrator Barbara Petersen (who is also liaison for Lt. Gov. Greg Francis). Blake challenged the government to set up a mighty tent and start singing. Petersen said they would and that she intended to win.
When she asked why there was no music or Vienna cake at the meeting, Blake, ever the showman, responded that they were waiting for funding from the government. Petersen in her remarks pledged financial support from the new administration.
This year fireworks will return over Charlotte Amalie harbor on April 28. There will be several new events, including a showcase for young bands on April 19 and a competition for the best nonalcoholic drink at Muries Native Cookshop on April 25 in honor of Muriel Lettsome. However, there will be no greased pig at the request of the Humane Society. The greased pole will still be there.
Blake said that there have been difficulties in getting top musical acts because of a conflict with the ICC Cricket World Cup in the West Indies, which takes place at the same time.
The full Carnival schedule is available at www.vicarnival.com.
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