2014 Carnival Village honors J'ouvert pioneers

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ST. THOMAS - Without Percival "Percy" Taylor and David "DeeDee Sharp" Dawson, Carnival likely would not be what it is today.

As the 2014 Carnival Village honorees, Taylor and Dawson officially opened the village Friday evening, cutting the ribbon and ushering the first visitors in.

The close friends and business partners are credited with being the founders of one of Carnival's best-loved events, J'ouvert.

Born on Montserrat and raised in Antigua, Taylor moved to St. Thomas at the age of 19.

After working in a variety of hospitality jobs on the island, he opened The Royal Palm restaurant and nightclub with Dawson in 1967. The Smith Bay hotspot would become the location where two major Carnival events were born: Brass-O'Rama in 1968 and J'ouvert in 1969. The first J'ouvert began at 5 a.m. after a jam session at The Royal Palm.

People tramped into town, along the waterfront and then on Main Street. Revelers sported T-shirts hand-painted by Taylor and his children.

Taylor and Dawson continued to organize J'ouvert for three more years, until the Carnival Association took over.

Taylor has been married to Jane Shiell-Taylor for more than 25 years, and they are parents to Percy Taylor Jr., Joseph Taylor, Linda Taylor-Scarbriel and Teresa Taylor. They have seven grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

Dawson was born in the British Virgin Islands and lived on Tortola until the age of 19, when he moved to St. Thomas.

Before breaking into the restaurant business with Taylor, Dawson was a successful taxi driver for many years.

In addition to pioneering J'ouvert on St. Thomas, Dawson and Taylor organized trips for local bands to travel to places such as Antigua, the BVI and Trinidad to participate in other carnivals.

After the success of The Royal Palm, Dawson opened several other restaurants, including Dee Dee's Bar and Restaurant in Brookman and Nikki Dee's, in the location of the former Pilgrim's Terrace.

Dawson and his wife, Joan Pilgrim Dawson, have been married for 39 years, and they are parents to Cherrie, Nicole and David Jr., and they have six grandchildren.

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