Friday’s children’s parade had more spectators than ever before, and even when the rain fell around midday, people stayed put and cheered for all the troupes participating.
A big factor in the much larger parade attendance was that the annual Carnival horse races, which have been held the same day as the parade, were moved to Thursday.
“We had some meetings with the horseman, and the V.I. Carnival Committee, and that went really well,” Lt. Gov. Osbert Potter said Friday when asked about the horse races being rescheduled. “The only thing that happened was that they said the horse races (crowds) now were lighter than usual. I think people weren’t able to come over from the other islands as easy, but that’s something we can work out for next time.”
Instead, the district seemed to put its full weight behind Friday’s parade, which not only celebrated their 65th anniversary of Carnival but also the Transfer Day Centennial. Throughout the day, the occasion was marked by a wide array of colors and themes, mostly gold, which many troupe organizers said was a celebratory color.
“Gold is the perfect way to commemorate a celebration,” former senator Shawn- Michael Malone said Friday, as the Sebastian majorettes once again lead the way up the parade route. Malone has been helping to organize the majorettes for decades, and this year said that the organization is also celebrating its 60th anniversary.
“Our theme is simply a birthday celebration,” Malone sad. “It’s celebrating our anniversary against the backdrop of the Centennial and Carnival’s birthday. After the transfer, twirling was one of the things introduced to the territory by the United States after World War II. So, today we mark the occasion with gold, and tomorrow for the Adults Parade, you’ll see more silver for the 60th anniversary and more of a military style theme. We also have members of our alumni association coming out, so you’ll see some of those ladies who haven’t been out here in years helping our twirlers along the street.”
Several different majorette troupes were represented Friday, all including different sections from the very young to the advanced twirlers. The Charming Twirlers Majorettes all also accented their costumes with gold and their traditional red, catching the eye of Senator Jean Forde and his party as they watched from the sidelines near market square.
“This is one of my favorite entries,” Forde said of the majorettes. ”It’s always wonderful to see the youngsters participate, especially these little, little ones. The Children’s Parade is always such a treat. We’re out here every year in support of what our students are doing, and that’s really what today, and Carnival, is all about.”
Along with majorettes, marching bands are a staple of the parade. This year, included an entry from every public high school in the territory. First up along the route was the Charlotte Amalie High School’s Marching Hawks, led by bandmaster Luben Daniel, who said that the playlist this year included arrangements he put together himself, mixing tunes from Trinidad and “Fete You” by artist R. City.
“I know what I want to hear,” Daniel said. “But when I’m putting something together I also look at what the students want and what they like to listen to. Sometimes an arrangement could take a day, or it could take weeks depending on what the arrangement includes. But the students seem to like the mix this year, and you can see in their performance how excited they all are.”
The Ivanna Eudora Kean High School’s Marching Rays band was also a separate entry this year, and came up the street with both their band members and their flag corps. Bands from St. Croix Central High School and St. Croix Educational Complex joined this year with the Department of Education troupe and came out on the parade route in full uniform, with instruments and flag teams. Band directors said that the St. Croix bands were able to perform with schools from St. Thomas at the St. Croix Crucian Christmas Festival, and we’re excited to come over and “return the favor.”
And, for the first time in a while, troupes abounded at the parade, ranging from independent entries to a 600-member troop put together by the Department of Education.
“When you clear the entire day for just the Children’s Parade, what happens is that no one is in a rush to leave,” Potter said Friday. “That way, you can also stretch out the parade, adding more entries, and allow people to stay longer, to sit back, and relax.”
Usually by 1 p.m., streets downtown would clear out, but this year no one moved, even when there was a large downpour in the middle of the day. Starting off the troupes was an entry from Ultimate Dance Experience, which wound its way up from Market Square all dressed in purple. And as the troupe continued up Main Street doing its routine, those waiting in the background gathered themselves up and got ready to jump in.
Saints Peter and Paul Catholic School wowed the audience with a nursery rhyme themed entry called “Just a Little Bit.” Students were dressed up to depict nursery rhymes such as “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” “Little Boy Blue,” and “Little Miss Muffet,” which also gave one of the students a chance to dress up as the spider that “scared Miss Muffet away.” Following behind, the Sun Children troupe, an annual entry, also worked gold into their costumes with an Indian inspired theme, depicting tribe such as the Aztecs and the Mayas with colorful headdresses dotted with feathers, and skirts and pants with animal prints.
A large portion of the middle to end of the parade, was taken up by the Department of Education and the 600-plus students that participated this year. Organizers said that the troupe was broken up into three sections that all followed a three “A” theme of athletics, the arts and academics.
Both of the St. Croix marching bands fell into the arts section, while members of several schools’ sports teams followed behind in the athletics section. The Department of Education had just hosted its first Carnival basketball tournament, and several of the participating teams, including one from Tortola, paraded Friday.
Department of Education spokesperson Cynthia Graham said that building collaboration not only between schools on the island but schools across the Caribbean is one of the department goals, and the athletics section of the trip this year represented that.
The academic section was led by the department’s primary learners, or elementary schools, who kept it simple with T-shirts, but topped them with elaborate headpieces that represented dated objects, such as roller skates and kerosene lamps. The students also carried signs that showed how those objects function. An old goose, the old-fashioned coal iron, was part of headpiece, for example, and students carried signs that showed how the goose was used.
Students also went up and down parade the parade route distributing books recyclable bags and other promotional items.
Of course, with the bands and several steel pan orchestras in the parade again this year, spectators in the crowd also took notice of which Carnival road march song was played the most. Topping the list, it seemed, was Spectrum Band’s “My Life,” but R. City’s “Fete You” was also a favorite throughout the day.