Crucians take to the streets in Children's Parade


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ST. CROIX - The island's children put on quite a show Friday.

With the Crucian Christmas Carnival rapidly moving toward a grand finale, the Children's Parade drew hundreds of people to downtown Frederiksted, where they lined the route to watch the spectacle unfold.

"So far, so good," said Kathleen Dyer, who had come to Children's Parade to see her granddaughter perform in a troupe. "It's slow getting started, slow moving, but it's pretty."

The parade, which had been scheduled for a 10 a.m. start, got under way a little late and took some time to wind through the streets. By noon, grand marshal Alvin Burke Jr., who led off the parade, was just pulling in to the grandstands toward the end of the parade route.

A steady breeze and some clouds kept it cool in the shade with an occasional sprinkle during Friday's parade - but the sun shone brightly at times too.

Anyone concerned about the possibility that local culture could be dying had to look no further than the Children's Parade to take heart.

Young troupes and floupes in glitzy costumes danced and strutted, majorettes twirled and dazzled, children struck sweet notes from steel pans and miniature mocko jumbies cavorted along the route.

Dyer said she had noticed it the day before at the Carnival Food, Arts and Crafts Fair.

"A lot of the more traditional bands now have some younger members, so that says the tradition will carry on - and that's outstanding," she said, noting that there appeared to be teenagers or young adults who were members of the bands at the Food Fair. "I am really happy to see that they're learning the traditional cultural music."

At Friday's parade, the stars were St. Croix's children - and they did not disappoint.

Shideya Parrilla, 15, led a group of 7- to 10-year-old St. Croix Majorettes in their routine.

"It was a lot of work," Shideya said as her group made it to the end of the parade route. "But it was really good to get to work with these girls and train them to be better majorettes and performers."

They'd been practicing their routines since September, first one night a week, and later, as Carnival neared, a second day was added, Shideya said.

All the practice paid off, according to Shideya.

"It was like everything we worked for all these months led up to this one moment," she said of their performance for the judges. "It would make us or break us. I think it made us."

All sorts of beauty pageant royalty - from winners of local elementary and junior high school contests, to winners of private contests, to Carnival royalty - populated the beginning of the parade, sitting in the backs of convertibles and trucks and waving to the crowd.

A number of them doubled back after completing the route the first time, to rejoin their troupes, majorette groups, bands or other parade entries and go through the route a second time, performing.

Some parents also brought their children to watch the parade.

Melvin Sinclair was watching from Buddhoe Park with his two children, Bryson and Brianna.

"We're having a great time. We're new here. We've only been here like eight months. We just wanted to see what it was like to be at the Children's Parade, the festivities," Sinclair said. "They're having a great time."

Brianna, 7, said she now wants to become a majorette.

Leon Cruz III, the assistant drum major for the Central High School Marching Band, said he enjoyed marching in the parade and performing, especially for the judges.

"It was hot, but it was great," he said. "When we got here, everybody was happy and started screaming for us."

Amal Bryson, 15, a sophomore at Educational Complex, was the only male dancer with the Music in Motion International Dance Company of the V.I. troupe, which had a "Birds of Paradise" theme.

"It was kind of iffy in the beginning because it was raining," Amal said, noting that the troupe's costumes all had lots of colorful feathers, which wouldn't have looked nearly as good if they had gotten wet.

The dance company had entered a troupe several times before in the parade - but not in the last three years, he said. They restarted the tradition with this parade.

"The best part was performing the routine in front of the judges and seeing their reactions," he said.

The troupes and floupes had all kinds of themes.

Ricardo Richards Elementary School had a Colony of Bees for Crucian Christmas Carnival 2014, with bumblebees and beekeepers.

Keiana Francis, a senior at Educational Complex, helped lead the Ricardo Richards troupe.

"It went very well. The kids did great. Everybody had fun and we partied like bees," she said.

The parade featured several majorette groups, a number of steel orchestras, some mocko jumbies, and a variety of troupes, some school-based and some from the community at large, including UMB Kids, who had a theme of "Crucian Candyland, the World of Sweets" and Solid Elements, with the theme "Kaleidsoscope, Confetti and Fireworks."

Jamal Drummond, founder of Solid Elements, which was performing in its second Children's Parade, said 52 children from schools across the island are part of the troupe. When he decided to start the troupe, he began by working with students from John H. Woodson Junior High School and it grew from there.

His troupe sported bright, colorful costumes, which he designed and made himself, he said.

"The kids were like, 'I want feathers! I want feathers!,'" Drummond said. "I wanted to bring back that element to the Children's Parade - the feathers, the glitz, the colors, the sparkle. The girls all wanted to sparkle."

The Crucian Christmas Carnival will continue today with the Adults Parade, which is slated to begin at 10 a.m.

- Contact reporter Joy Blackburn at 714-9145 or email jblackburn@dailynews.vi.

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