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Yacht Haven Grande Party Draws 1,800 for Food, Fireworks and the Beach Boys

March 18, 2007 — "It's Monaco, that's what it is," someone said Saturday night, looking at the Yacht Haven Grande marina overflowing with immaculate mega-yachts lolling under a star-studded sky.
The sight was something to behold for St. Thomians who flocked to the invitation-only gala that preceded Sunday's public-opening events. That is, it was as a private as a party for an estimated 1,800 guests can get. Alex Andrade, Yacht Haven general manager, was still catching his breath Sunday afternoon.
"I can't tell you how excited and grateful I am," he said. "If you'd asked me a week ago if we could have pulled this off, I don't know what I would have said."
"It's really been a group effort," he continued. "The employees and their families have given up a lot in the last three months, pushing for this. I am so proud of them."
The already-elegant property was even more dressed up Saturday night. Deep blue carpets adorned the entranceway, with lights shining to signal each arrival. Guests received flowers and iridescent-blue neon bands to welcome them in.
Rumors abounded: "Oprah is here, Donald Trump is here." It didn't matter who was there; St. Thomas was having the best party people had seen in years. "I can't remember having so much fun at one of these," said one party goer, a sentiment echoed by others nearby. "It's even better than the old Yacht Haven days, and we thought those were special," said another.
Gourmet treats abounded. Seared tuna with shitaake mushrooms and a cauliflower coulis was offered at one table, followed by a Chinese takeout stand with cheesecake-stuffed wonton served over basil-flavored noodles stuffed in a tiny takeout carton. While people stopped to sip another flute of champagne or something less fancy, circulating wait staff served them miniature oysters or a bit of scallop ceviche. Or how about seared duck breast over humus on homemade crackers, or a baby pizza, barbecue ribs? And, a dessert table with chocolates from the Belgian Chocolate Factory and little squares of creme brulee. You get the drift.
William Cus, food and beverage director, said Sunday, "15,000 pieces of hors d'oeuvre. Can you believe it? Five individual food stands and eight bars." Like Andrade, Cus still appeared stunned from the dazzle of the night before.
"In addition to the crowd on the premises, we catered a private party for 300 on the yacht Sherakhan," Andrade said.
Yacht Haven Grande developer Elie Finegold drifted through the crowd, seemingly on his own pink cloud. Resplendent in a fine white suit, Finegold has been at the forefront of the development since its inception, overseeing all aspects of the monumental project. Saturday night he looked more than relaxed, grinning and thanking everyone for supporting the development.
With a bow to St. Thomas tradition, a Carnival parade wound through the crowd, drawing surprised "oohs" and "aahs." The Charlotte Amalie High School marching band, smartly attired in bandbox yellow, led off the festivities, followed by elaborately costumed individual entries and troupes, winding up with the mocko-jumbies.
All of this activity, of course, was leading to the treat of the evening — the Beach Boys, America's favorites right here on St. Thomas! The crowd could not possibly have been more ready; everyone was gathered elbow to elbow in front of the bandstand, nudging each other like the groupies many once were.
Before the band started, the proprietors of the evening's festivities came on stage to thank everyone in the community for making the evening possible. Finegold and Andrew Farkas thanked the community for its support in helping to make St. Thomas the premier yachting destination of the Caribbean. Fifty yachts from "all over the world are here tonight," Farkas said.
Gov. John deJongh Jr. thanked the developers: "We now have state-of-the-art facilities to welcome the largest and most technologically advanced yachts in the world, and a new retail and restaurant experience. We thank you."
Then came the main event.
"Now I can say something I have wanted to say since I was a little boy," Farkas said. "Ladies and gentlemen, Yacht Haven Grande presents America's band, the Beach Boys!"
Mike Love, an original member, and Bruce Johnston, who joined the original group in 1965, haven't lost a beat over the years. In fact, they may have gained one or two. At least that's how it seemed as people in the crowd swayed and danced to "Little Deuce Coupe," "Fun, Fun, Fun" and after more than an hour, "Surfin' USA," closing the band's set to wild shouts and applause. Along the way they also sang "California Dreamin'," possibly as a tribute to Denny Doherty of the Mamas and the Papas, who died earlier this year.
Then, came "In My Room," which had one older couple mooning at each other as they danced. "And we've been married 36 years," the wife remarked airily.
Just as the energy unleashed by the band began to dissipate, the sky came alive with a dazzling display of fireworks — a perfect encore.
Sunday saw crowds of people again visiting the retail shops, listening to the Louis Taylor Trio and the St. Thomas All Stars Steel Band. The bands played as young marina employees passed out balloons to children and other kids got their faces painted. Adam Chan was getting his face painted as Jordan Johnson, 3, impatiently anticipated his turn.
"He's been waiting for this," said his mother, Jackie Johnson. "I remember the old Yacht Haven when I was growing up. It was my thing then. But this is a good improvement."
Many folks strolled out to the docks to observe the impressive display of mega-yachts. "We had 58 yachts here yesterday for 48 slips," Andrade said. "Some had to anchor out." There were yachts of every stripe, massive sailing vessels and modest-by-comparison 50-foot yachts. The 452.75-foot Rising Sun was berthed near the West Indian Co. dock, where it dwarfed the 439-foot cruise ship Seabourn Legend. In seagoing craft, 14 feet makes a big difference.
For a complete history of the project, enter "Yacht Haven" in the "Search Section" box on the Local News page. The Source has reported extensively on the project since its inception.
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