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Charlotte Amalie
Tuesday, May 21, 2024
HomeNewsLocal newsUpstreet Group Lights Up Roosevelt Park

Upstreet Group Lights Up Roosevelt Park

Franklin D. Roosevelt Veterans Memorial Park looks a lot more festive for the season thanks to long-standing community civic organization We From Upstreet, who hosted their 20th annual Christmas tree lighting and celebration Sunday and Monday evenings.

The actual holiday lighting of the park’s trees took place on Sunday, but the festivities continued on Monday as the Upstreet neighborhood and guests from around the island came together to wish each other season’s greetings and enjoy a series of musical performances.

“Every year we want to come and give back to the community with good cheer and spirit,” said WEFUS President Kyza A. Callwood.

Callwood praised WEFUS member Austin “Babe” Monsanto for being the driving force behind the organization’s annual holiday celebration, which always begins on the second Sunday of December. He said that for the last two decades the organization has been one of the stewards of the park, helping to beautify it and host community events there.

Each year We From Upstreet invites the music programs of St. Thomas’s public, private and parochial schools to perform prior to the lighting of the park’s trees. This year the Addelita Cancryn Junior High School Jazz Band, the Ivanna Eudora Kean High School Jazz Band, the Bertha C. Boschulte Middle School Choir, and the Holy Family Dancers helped set the mood during the prelude to Sunday’s lighting ceremony.

According to past-president of WEFUS, Sen. Myron D. Jackson, the organization’s tradition of lighting Roosevelt Park began with the goal of providing some hope and cheer during the (literally) dark days of 1995, during the aftermath of Hurricane Marilyn.

“After the hurricane, the district of St. Thomas-St. John was so hard hit we lost power for about six months. This park became a beacon of light for the Christmas season, and we’ve been doing it ever since,” Jackson said.

But We From Upstreet’s Christmas party has become more than just about lighting the trees. Just after sunset on Monday evening, people began to congregate in Roosevelt Park for the post-lighting “cultural night.” Callwood and WEFUS’s vice president, Yvette Finch, emceed the party that included performances by groups of both students and senior members of the community. 

The Joseph Sibilly Elementary School Sun Rays kicked things off in their Santa hats with a steel pan medley performed in the middle of the park.

Attention then turned to the event’s main stage, where student groups including the IEKHS Harmonic Rays Choir and the BCB Flambo Combo band continued to delight the crowd.

The BCB choir, who were a hit on Sunday, also returned for a second performance Monday night.

The choir from the nearby Memorial Moravian Church Choir also performed on the stage before the event’s cultural dancers paraded through the park around 8:30. The St. Thomas Heritage dancers, the Macislyn Bamboula Dance Company and the Mungo Niles Cultural Dancers all lent lively performances to the evening.

Closing out the performances were the Party/Hardy Carolers, Cliff Finch and Friends, and Voices of Love.

Callwood said that each year We From Upstreet selects individuals and groups to honor for their civic engagement at their holiday party. This year the CAHS Interact Club and the Junior Firefighters were chosen. Callwood said those groups also helped prepare the park for the celebration.

“In order for us to do this event, they help us with the tree lighting. The students are just remarkable,” he said.

Helping to sponsor the holiday festivities were V.I. Lottery, V.I. Waste Management Authority, International Capital Management Co., V.I. Council on the Arts, the West Indian Co. Ltd., the V.I. Water and Power Authority, V.I. Department of Tourism, St. Thomas Federal Credit Union, attorneys Treston Moore and Paul Hoffman, the CAHS Interact Club and the Finch family.

WTJX filmed the event, which will be airing in full on Christmas morning on Channel 12.

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