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Carnival Times Are a’Changing With Government Takeover

Sen. Myron Jackson chairs Monday's meeting of the Committee on Culture and Planning. (Photo by Barry Leerdam for the V.I. Legislature)
Sen. Myron Jackson chairs Monday’s meeting of the Committee on Culture and Planning. (Photo by Barry Leerdam for the V.I. Legislature)

The territory’s carnivals are changing, and senators at Monday’s hearing of the Committee on Culture and Planning debated which of those changes will be good and which might be problematic.

The big change is who will be running the festivals after the current St. Thomas Carnival. A bill signed by the governor in January has the Department of Tourism taking charge beginning with this year’s Crucian Christmas Festival.

Representatives from the Tourism Department and Virgin Islands Carnival Committee Board appeared to have different definitions of how that transition would take place. And a couple senators indicated they would like to see “the experts” from the board getting special consideration in the new positions the department will fill to run the festivals.

Sen. Athneil Thomas indicated he thought the only thing wrong with the festivals as managed by the board was the board was not given a big enough budget. He asked whether valuable volunteers might not come back to work the festival when the Tourism Department takes over.

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Sen. Oakland Benta also indicated he saw little problem with the way the festivals has been run. He asked Halvor Hart, executive director of the V.I. Carnival Committee Board, whether there was ever any problem “opening the books.” Hart answered, “No.”

Benta then asked if “anyone was stealing money.” Again Hart answered no.

Senators complaints about no financial transparency at the Festival Board go back to at least to 2006, when the Tourism Board demanded the board sign a contract in exchange for its allotment of around $300,000 that year. This year’s contributions from the V.I. Government was $545,000, with the board’s budget being closed to $1 million.

Sen. Janelle Sarauw reminds her colleagues why the 32nd Legislature upended the old carnival board system in the first place. (Photo by Barry Leerdam for the V.I. Legislature)
Sen. Janelle Sarauw reminds her colleagues why the 32nd Legislature upended the old carnival board system in the first place. (Photo by Barry Leerdam for the V.I. Legislature)

Sen. Janelle Sarauw, who had been one of those highly critical of the board in the 32nd Legislature, asked whether the 33rd Legislature was not just trying to undo the work of its predecessor. She said the board had spent exorbitant amounts on charter flights and per diem.

Jenifer O’Neal, nominee to be director of the Office of Management, told senators she had been in discussion with Eduardo Corneiro, vice chairman of the Carnival Committee, about documents still needed concerning this year’s grant to the board.

Sen. Myron Jackson, chairman of the committee, said his concern was the board was “not thinking things through” when making some of its decisions. His comment came when he learned the board had changed the venue for some activities in this year’s St. Thomas festival from the Lionel Roberts Stadium to the UVI Sports and Fitness Center without finding out from the fire department how many people could be seated in the center.

Corneiro said the Prince and Princess Selection Show, scheduled for 5 p.m. April 14, will be held at the UVI Sports and Fitness Center as will be the Queen Selection Show, set for 8 p.m. April 20. He said the changes in venue should bring up attendance at the events.

He added that the Culture Night activity has evolved into a daytime “A Cultural Affair” and will be held on April 24 in Emancipation Garden.

Other changes include the Junior Calypso Competition being added to the Carnival Village entertainment lineup on April 25, as a village soft-opening event. The Calypso finals will be held at 8 p.m. April 27 at the Charlotte Amalie High School auditorium.

The Lionel Roberts Stadium will be used for container storage; V.I. Kid Fest on March 30, Cooler Fete on April 13, Classic Car show on April 28, Children’s Parade termination on May 3 and Adult Parade termination on May 4.

Still other changes include the Calypso Elimination Tent at 8 p.m. April 6 at Virgin Haven and the Steelband Jamboree in Emancipation Garden on April 28, beginning at 5 p.m., unlike last year’s noon start.

Events remaining virtually the same are:

– Carnival at RLS Regional Hospital at 6 p.m. April 22,
– Official opening of the Village – “Coggie’s Musical Ville” – at 6 p.m. April 26 at the Fort Christian parking lot,
– Motor Sports Sunday 10 a.m. at the Charlotte Amalie Harbor,
– Soca Monarch Competition at 8 p.m. at Coggie’s Musical Ville in the Fort Christian Parking Lot,
– Senior Citizens Quelbe Tramp from Rothschild Francis Square to Coggie’s Musical Ville at 8 p.m. April 30,
– The Culture Fair, “Bathe in Waters Blue” beginning at 8 a.m. May 1 in Emancipation Garden,
– Roast-A-Time J’ouvert warm-up beginning at 12:30 a.m. May 2 in “Coggie’s Musical Ville,”
– J’ouvert, May 2 on Veterans Drive, 4 a.m for troupes and 6 a.m. for the general public,
– Children’s Parade commencing at 10 a.m. May 3,
– Adult Parade commencing at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 4, and
– Carnival fireworks AT 8 p.m. April 4 in Charlotte Amalie harbor.

This year’s theme is “Culture, Fun and Flair! It’s a Carnival 2019 Affair.”

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