An early July weekend of culture and fun, celebrating V.I. Emancipation Day and U.S. Independence Day, are in the works for the island of St. John. Even with pandemic precautions in place, organizers say they’re encouraged that an abbreviated July 4 fete is possible.
2021 is emerging as a bridge year for the new Department of Tourism Division of Festivals. The division was challenged in its first year at the helm of staging the territory’s carnivals and festivals by restrictions put in place for the COVID-19 pandemic. As it goes into its second year, Festival Division Director Ian Turnbull is building on the success of the one-day soca-night concert held in place of St. Thomas Carnival in April.
Now, with the dual July holidays on the horizon, Turnbull says a mini food fair will take place July 3, followed by a one-night-only soca event for July 4. As was the case with the St. Thomas fete held on the West Indian Company dock, events are open only to residents and visitors who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
“St. John Festival 2021 will follow a similar theme. The Love City Food Fair is a scaled-down version of what a food fair would be. All vendors will be vaccinated and individuals can come to the event, they will have to wear their masks,” Turnbull said.
Up to 200 people will be allowed into this year’s venue at the Enighed Pond barge dock parking facility, also known as the gravel lot. Twenty-five to 30 vendors are expected to register, he said. As food fair fans come in, pick up their goodies and leave, more patrons will be allowed onto the food fairgrounds.
July 3rd’s mini food fair is also expected to share its goodness by way of live-streaming on the Festival Division’s social media sites. Hosts Pamela Richards and former White House chef Guy Mitchell are slated to introduce virtual fairgoers to the flavors of the season.
Official greeters will meet the public in person at the venue entrance, conducting checks of vaccination cards. A Tourism Division entertainment team of costumed dancers and moko jumbies will be on hand, along with the Love City Pan Dragons and the Verctyle Band providing the tunes.
Verctyle Band – made up of veteran musicians from St. Thomas and St. John – provided the musical backdrop for the virtual mini-festival village staged for the July 4th event in 2020.
Turnbull said the band has been invited back to entertain the crowd in the real world in 2021. Tickets are also on sale for the Love Fete on the 4th, featuring music by Spectrum Band, Rudi Live from St. Croix, Cool Session Brass, Verctyle and an international soca artist, soon to be announced.
Between 200 and 400 guests are expected for the night of music, also set for the Enighed Pond parking facility, across the street from the St. John Parks and Recreation tennis court. The director says his team is at work, turning plans into a weekend splash, while he keeps abreast of the latest COVID-19 advisories from the Department of Health.
Health Department spokeswoman Jahnesta Ritter issued a statement Wednesday urging the public to remain vigilant against possible coronavirus infections. “As of June 15, 2021, there are 92 active COVID-19 infections in the territory, and the Department reported the 30th death related to COVID-19 on Monday,” Ritter said.
Health officials are reminding Virgin Islanders that COVID-19 vaccinations are readily available and can help safeguard vulnerable persons in the population.
Ticket information for the July 4th mini-fete is available on St. Thomas at Mtoc at Market Square, 340-690-7772, and on St. John at Nella’s Lounge, 340-690-1258.
Sponsors include St. John Seltzer, Stoli Vodka, the Virgin Islands Lottery, Department of Health Maternal and Child Health Division, and the Port Authority.