In a normal year there would be three parades – the Crucian Christmas Festival’s Adult and Children’s parades, and the smaller Three Kings Day Parade. But not much has been normal the last four months in the territory.
Instead, the three street celebrations were merged into one Saturday, honoring recovery teams that worked in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
The combined parades saluted visiting linemen, WAPA workers, and the Red Cross, incorporating blue tarps into their schemes.
The parade’s customary magnificence may have dimmed slightly this year, but folks in the parade and on the sidelines enjoyed themselves.
In the wake of two Category 5 storms, troupes wore fewer feathers and many more hard hats, neon vests, and tie-dyed costumes. One gentleman in lineman attire marched with a generator strapped around his neck. A chartreuse-vested fellow carried a transformer attached to a pole. A woman in a yellow hard hat and orange vest waved placards thanking Haugland Energy and Santee Cooper. Parade watchers saw lots of caution tape, and the Gentlemen of Jones truck used a FEMA-like tarp for its canopy.
The parade started late – as it almost always does – and was interrupted by rain. The theme of gratitude set the tone.
The Three Kings kicked off the procession and handed out “gold, frankincense, and myrrh” to the crowd. Carnival queens waved from snazzy convertibles. The St. Croix Majorettes twirled, and the Central High School Band marched. Youngsters bedecked in sequins pranced down King Street.
Big feathered headdresses did make appearances, as did shiny gold knee-high boots.
As always, huge trucks equipped with booming speakers transported local bands, each vying for the title of Road March winner. Troupes followed behind and danced to the loud African beat. Onlookers danced in place behind the barricades.
Cool Breeze Band came home for Carnival, as per custom. The band had intended to participate in the parade but equipment problems on their truck nixed the plan. Instead, the group watched from Cibone Restaurant.
“We’re a Virgin Islands-grown band based in the United States, carrying and preserving the culture,” said Adam O’Neal, lead singer. He introduced his younger brother Mystro (pronounced Maestro) as the band’s “other lead singer”. Both sing soca, and both graduated from Central High.
Adam O’Neal, whose stage name is Adam O, won the Soca Party Monarch competition this year at Carnival. Mystro sang back up.
While Cool Breeze has a fan base of Virgin Islanders living or attending college in the States, it has a following across the country.
“We infuse a lot of mainstream hiphop with Caribbean culture,” said Adam O. “I think we are the first to do this.”
The band performed on St. Croix and St. Thomas throughout Crucian Carnival.
Peter King, from Wokingham, England, caught the parade by accident. He had no idea his visit would coincide with Carnival. He especially liked the kids.
“The steel pan bands were great and so were the quadrille dancers,” King said. Coming in, he saw girls on the back streets getting ready. He settled in to watch from Caribbean Museum Center for the Arts but also walked up and down King Street, catching the parade at both ends.
“It was a good show considering that they carried on despite the storms,” he said.
Few minded the drizzle at twilight and all loved the fireworks that ended the night and concluded Crucian Christmas Carnival 2017-18.