St. Patrick’s Day on St. Croix is one of those events where the crowd is just as entertaining as the parade, and at some points, when the route through Christiansted narrows and the crowd surges, it becomes difficult to tell the two apart – and is immaterial. Almost everyone was wearing green, and everyone was having a good time at the 43rd annual St. Croix St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
For Gail and Steve Patriquin of Wolfeboro, N.H., the trek down for the parade has become an annual event. In the weeks leading up to the event, they ship down several boxes of green accouterments, everything from hats to sunglasses to the perfect green striped glasses for the cool frothy beverages they and their friends were sipping along Company Street.
"It’s fantastic!" Gail said of their annual pilgrimage. "We love it."
Similarly, Rob LaFrenier plans his trips from Staten Island to visit his sister to coincide with the parade.
"It’s great," he said, peeking out from behind a pair of sunglasses with lenses shaped like shamrocks.
A group of visitors from Denmark’s Aarhus Friskole joined in the fun, a group of girls dancing as their classmates and guides played and sang what sounded like a traditional Danish song. Hard to say because they spoke very little English, and the reporter trying to get names spoke no Danish.
The MVP of the parade – which in this case stands for Most Valuable Pirate – was Grand Marshal Mike Belcheff, a longtime Crucian and a buccaneer fan well known across the island as "Cap’n Killy." Resplendent in an outfit heavy on the green, with boots, leather eye patch, cutlass, pistol, rum bottle, and all manner of pirate paraphernalia, he alternately walked and rode the parade route, posing with dozens – or was it hundreds? – of people who just had to have their picture taken with a pirate.
The marching bands from the island’s two public high schools both strutted down the streets,spirited drums majors leading flag twirlers, cheerleaders, and musicians. Several pubs and restaurants had entries, their speakers blaring dance music and the many patrons aboard drinking and tossing beads to the crowd. Eateries represented included the Safari, the Lost Dog, Angry Nate’s, and the Roadside Barbecue. But all that music couldn’t touch the decibels put out by the Rain Riders, a local motorcycle club.
Maybe the two most fascinating parade entries were two that had very little in common, but were both great. Caribbean Revelers featured a team of marchers bent over a rolling table, beating out an intricate rhythm on old brake drums. And Kiki and the Flaming Gypsies paraded down the street on a gauzy float labeled "Flying on a Cloud," twirling Hula Hoops all the way. Does anything say St. Patrick’s Day better than a company of young women in swinging plastic hoops around their hips – and shoulders, necks, arms, whatever?
As the parade headed down King Street toward the judging station, the crowd surged out into the street, leaving barely space for the trucks, cars, marchers, and dancers to pass. Along the edges, the two seemed to mingle and merge, and it wasn’t easy to tell exactly who was parader and who was paradee. But with whistles and honking horns, things began moving again and the parade straggled down the street toward another finale.