J'ouvert rocks Frederiksted awake

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ST. CROIX - Thousands of revelers danced to greet the day - and the new year - on Wednesday as J'ouvert pulsated and rocked its way through the streets of downtown Frederiksted.

The Crucian Christmas Carnival's biggest tramp got under way well after dawn on New Year's Day, and by mid-morning was a massive roiling sea of gyrating humanity, moving to primal rhythms and thumping bass as the party snaked down Emancipation Drive and along Fisher Street before making the final turn down King Street for the rollicking trip into the heart of Frederiksted town.

After some showers overnight, J'ouvert morning dawned cool and bright.

Because it was also New Year's Day, some revelers did double duty, partying all night long to celebrate the new year, and then, without skipping a beat, heading on over for J'ouvert.

From early Wednesday morning, people - some sporting outlandish costumes - quietly made their way from Frederiksted town to Hannah's Rest, where the lineup began.

The sense of anticipation was palpable as hundreds of people waited for the tramp to start.

Finally, sometime after 8 a.m., the bacchanal was suddenly on, with pure soca sound blasting through giant speakers atop flatbed trucks that inched their way along the route, as revelers fell in behind - and crowded 'round - their favorite bands.

Police had a strong and visible presence at the fĂȘte. They kept a watchful eye, moving along with the crowd, even as those who came to party did just that, dancing their way around the officers.

Despite violence that claimed a life during the overnight hours near the Carnival Village, J'ouvert came off without any real problems.

"J'ouvert was incident-free," said Police spokeswoman Melody Rames, who also does publicity for the Crucian Christmas Carnival.

The costumes this year ran the gamut from the outrageous to the whimsical.

Men dressed as women, women dressed in as little as possible. Superheroes and all kinds of unique bits of flair - from Winnie the Pooh hats to fairy wings - were among the fashions that partiers donned for the tramp.

A man who would identify himself only as "Crazy" sported a woman's wig, a bra, boxer shorts, red and black striped tights and cowboy boots.

"I just woke up and jump in it," he joked.

Amelia Knight, who was in the crowd around the Stylee Band truck, said she has been going to J'ouvert since she was a teenager.

"My favorite part is when the truck stop and the music still playing," she said, adding that she likes to "dance, have fun and drink Cruzan Rum."

She loves J'ouvert so much she travels to St. Thomas and St. John for their J'ouverts as well, she said.

There were also plenty of people lining the route to watch the madness unfold.

Sharon Charles said she likes the music.

Terry John said that he came for one reason: The girls.

"Some fine ladies come out in short pants," he said. He and a friend said they hadn't decided yet whether they would join in the fun or just watch from the sidelines.

Brother and sister Johnny and Jackie Hughes - who came last year dressed as Crucian Festival Christmas Trees, sporting plenty of tinsel and carefully-arranged empty beer cans - were dressed this year as "floating pinatas." Their costumes included multicolored disposable hazard suits, covered with balloons and crepe paper streamers, featuring hats that were pinatas.

"We're going to have fun," Johnny Hughes said.

Sonya Santiago, who came to watch the show with her grandchildren, said she would have liked to see J'ouvert start earlier, so that revelers truly are greeting the day.

"It could have been better; they needed to start earlier," she said, pointing out that by mid-morning the sun had grown hot. "And they needed more bands."

Her grandson, Ijah Gill, was in a stroller and experiencing his first Crucian Christmas Carnival J'ouvert, albeit from the sidelines. Santiago said she had been afraid he'd cry with the loud music and pulsating rhythms, but he surprised her.

"He's enjoying this," she said. "He liked the J'ouvert."

The Crucian Christmas Carnival continues today, with the Food Fair at noon at the Clock Tower in Frederiksted and the Calypso Monarch competition at 8 p.m. at Island Center.

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

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