Parade brings Festival to its climax


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ST. CROIX - The streets of Frederiksted pulsated with a living, breathing, moving feast for the senses Saturday as the Crucian Christmas Festival reached its climax.

Thousands thronged to the West End for the Adults' Parade.

It did not disappoint.

Majorettes and mocko jumbies danced and twirled through the streets, children struck sweet sounds from steel pans as they bounced along in trolleys, and troupes and floupes gyrated and whirled along the parade route, flaunting feathers and exotic costumes while dancing to the music of bands set up on flatbed trucks.

The trucks themselves were sporting speakers piled high, which delivered a booming, pulsating wall of sound through the crowd, shaking the streets, nearby buildings, and spectators alike to the rhythm of the bass line.

The glitter, the glitz, and the pageantry of the event were befitting for Festival's 60th anniversary, with the theme this year of "Live the Dream; Music, Mas and History; Crucian Christmas Festival 60th Anniversary, 2012-2013."

The parade was multi-generational, with a 6-year-old grand marshal who was there to honor his grandfather, and a float honoring past Festival queens. The St. Croix majorettes even had some of their members from previous decades join them in their routine.

Ronel Schjang, 6, was the grand marshal of the parade, in honor of his grandfather Lawrence A. Bastian.

Bastian, a former Festival president, was a major factor in pulling festivities in Christiansted and Frederiksted into a single Crucian Christmas Festival, said his daughter Carla. Bastian, who died in 2007, was not the type of person who sought public recognition, she said.

"I am glad that the Festival Committee found this year fit to honor my dad," she said.

For his part, Ronel seemed to be enjoying the attention. The best part, he said, was smiling and waving to the crowd.

Miss St. Croix Cliaunjel Williams was officially crowned by 2011-2012 Miss St. Croix Deidre DuBois in a small ceremony in front of the grand stand on Saturday before reigning over the parade. Williams won the crown during a pageant last month.

Festival queens from previous years were also honored, going back as far as the 1961-1962 Festival.

Waving to the crowd and wearing sleek, sophisticated evening wear, Geralda Miller of St. Croix was among the former queens who rode along on a float.

"It's fun. It's very nice," Miller, who was queen during the 1961-1962 Festival, said of participating in Saturday's parade. "It brings back memories."

Sparkle Lite Twirler Kadijah Roach, 17, said it was her ninth year as a Sparkle Lite Twirler participating in Festival parades.

"It was good. It was great - tiring," she said as she finished the parade route.

There were lots of participants in the parade this year. Festival spokeswoman Melody Rames said that initially, there were approximately 45 entrants, but some late entries and some participants expected to arrive from St. Thomas pushed that number up.

The crowds that gathered for the parade were a mix of locals and visitors.

Ryan and Margo Johnson, who were visiting from Colorado, said they initially were not terribly excited when they learned there would be a parade on Saturday. They've seen their share of parades stateside.

But when the Adult Festival Parade started to unfold on Saturday, they changed their minds. They had not seen anything like this before, they said.

"This is great - all the colors, the dancing," Margo Johnson said.

Five-year-old Kenisha Barnes was watching the parade with her grandmother. Her favorite part, she said, was the clowns.

Felix Roa, who said he grew up on St. Croix but moved away 17 years ago to join the Air Force, had brought his children, Javiel and Nataliya, back from an Air Force base in England to visit his father and soak up some Crucian culture.

"I've been coming since I was small," Roa said of Festival. "It's great - especially for the kids."

Kenya Troutman was in the Lockhart & Associates troupe.

"It's really good," she said as she danced down the street. "There are more than 300 individuals in our troupe - and everybody's dancing."

Troupe after troupe, decked out in elaborate costumes, body paint, feathers and sparkles galore - went by.

Eunice Ambrose was on the side porch of a building that faced King Street, at the back of a concession stand, kneading dough for johnny cakes, with a kettle of chicken frying nearby.

Although the spectacle and the pageantry was passing by just a few yards away, she said she hadn't had time to look up or watch.

"I haven't seen the parade," she said. "My granddaughter passed by and I didn't even see her. I totally missed her. I thought I'd have time to look, but we've been so busy."

Solè Griffin, 7, and Shanai Scott, 11, were watching the parade with their aunt. Solè said she liked the dancing, while Shanai said it was the costumes she liked.

Andre Titus was watching the parade and greeting old friends. Titus, who grew up here, has lived in New York for years and is the volleyball coach for York College, he said.

He was enjoying the parade, he said.

"It's a nice parade this year. I come home every holiday," Titus said, adding that his favorite part of the parade is the mocko jumbies.

Rupert Ross Jr. was among a group of people sporting "Sugar Shack" T-shirts watching the parade along King Street.

About mid-afternoon, he said it had been "a great parade so far."

He could not, however, say what his favorite part would be.

"I haven't seen the end of it yet," he said.

The parade wrapped up after the sun went down Saturday, with spectators and participants making a night of it in the Village.

Festival wrapped up on Sunday, with fireworks and a full night of entertainment in the Village.

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

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