From straw hats and hibiscus to the bright yellow sun topping the V.I. Montessori School’s float, the sights and sounds of this year’s Children’s Parade highlighted all the best features – and fun – of the tropics.
The Children’s Parade starts every year with the introduction of the Carnival princess and her court, along with the grand marshal. Riding center stage this year was 2013 Junior Calypso monarch, Jalen “King Yellow Man” Fredericks, who has been in and out of the V.I. Carnival events since he was 5 years old.
Royalty from petite prince and princesses to the kings and queens of each local high school are a big part of the Children’s Parade, and this year was no exception – even Ivanna Eudora Kean High School’s Miss JROTC Hannah Hendrington had her own car, which moved slowly up Main Street allowing Hendrington, who has been in the school’s battalion for the last four years, to talk to her fans in the crowd.
“Carnival has been very good to us this year, despite some of the little mishaps we’ve seen here and there,” Hendrington said. “We’re definitely glad to be participating in the parade. It’s wonderful out here and we always look forward to coming out.”
Another mainstay in the parades is the bands. From youth steel orchestras to high school marching bands, the music never stops as the troupes and floupes make their way into Post Office Square. One of the first entries in this year was the band from St. Croix Central High School, whose directors said has been practicing for months.
“We have 52 kids out here today, plus our teachers and advisors,” said Stan Joynes, co-band director. “We’re really a great team and the kids are all having a great time.”
Local elementary schools, such as E. Benjamin Oliver, also sent out their hardworking steel orchestras, with dozens of students playing the latest calypso and soca arrangements while bumping along the route in their trolleys. Oliver Principal Lois Habtes said the school is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year and will soon be inviting the public out to a “grand” birthday celebration.
“We are so very proud of our Steel Owls orchestra,” Habtes said, excited as the band’s trolley passed by. “We really wanted to play some great music for Carnival,” she continued, “so I hope everyone enjoys it.”
Many schools spend months preparing their troupes and floupes for the parade. This year’s entries were outfitted in vivid colors – from iguana green to florescent pink and everything in between – that often represented some aspect of the local landscape.
The V.I. Montessori School and Peter Gruber International Academy had the crowd cheering early on with an entry titled “Unity Under the Sun.”
Montessori Director Norma Bolinger pointed to the large yellow sun that adorned the school’s float, saying it “was definitely in line with the Carnival theme this year.”
“We wanted to feature our sun and our school is going solar, which is why we also have solar panels up there.”
Hoping to show that the territory is a melting pot, the Montessori students wore Latin, African, Middle Eastern and Indian inspired costumes, while other students were dressed as local farmers and shimmering hibiscus flowers.
“We also wanted to express the diversity that we have in our school, on St. Thomas and globally,” Bolinger said.
The spectacular costumes won applause from many in the audience, including Gov. John deJongh Jr.
“What I like about the Children’s Parade is two things: one, the mere fact that the young people are willing to just get out there and be themselves is tremendous; and two, the costumes, the brightness of the costumes and the choreography with the dances … I just think is great,” deJongh said.
“I love watching the bands go through, watching our grand marshal this year, King Yellow Man.” He continued, “It’s just a wonderful experience.”
DeJongh said that besides recent incidents – including shootings that broke out early Thursday and halted this year’s J’ouvert festivities – Carnival, on the whole, has been going well this year.
“My message to the community is to enjoy yourself,” the governor said. “Don’t stay home. Come out. Be with your friends and family and have a nice, safe time.”