St. Croix wakes to Mon Bijou J'ouvert


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ST. CROIX - While the sun struggled to move from behind the clouds for the Boxing Day sunrise Thursday, residents in Mon Bijou and neighboring residential areas were awakened by the sounds of loud, thumping bass and calypso rhythms as UMB Band made its way on the road to start the annual Mon Bijou J'ouvert.

The celebration - which is a precursor to the large J'ouvert parade that takes place Wednesday - began at the La Reine Chicken Shack and snaked into Mon Bijou.

Hundreds of revelers took to the streets in a sea of dancing people who packed in front of and behind two powerhouse trucks that were laden with speakers and sound systems and carried Digital Band and UMB Band along the route.

Led by a V.I. Police escort, the trucks inched slowly down the road with singers belting out some of this year's hot Crucian Christmas carnival music mixed with classic calypso rhythms and lyrics that incited the crowd into a gyrating frenzy.

A drinks truck was nestled between the two band trucks, selling water and soft drinks - along with plenty of alcohol - to keep the revelers hydrated. While some people downed their drinks, others poured bottles of water over their heads or threw ice at each other to try to keep cool during the day, which had heated up by 8 a.m.

Mon Bijou J'ouvert was the place to see imaginations run wild with crazy outfits and homemade costumes, which have grown to become a staple of the festive road march.

The costumes included many variations of cut-and-tied T-shirts, short shorts and mini-skirts, along with plenty of spandex pants and lace tights in all sizes, shapes and colors.

There were lots of wigs in bright colors, feathered headpieces, oversize sunglasses, ballerina tutus, masks and hats.

Nichole James watched from the sidelines near John Woodson Junior High School with her mother, Sharon Mitchell. James said watching the partying crowd has become an annual event for them to attend, but they never venture inside the tramp.

"This is just good enough right here to see everybody having a good time," she said. "I can see everything from here, where it's safe."

James said when the Carnival J'ouvert rolls down the route next week, she will be in the same place - on the sidelines.

The V.I. Police Department provided an escort for the trucks and had a high presence along the route to ensure no violence erupted in the crowd.

Officers also were on hand to avert a major standoff between the J'ouvert trucks and a trackhoe driver, who had parked his large earth-moving machine perpendicular to the street, across the two lanes, so the band trucks could not get down the route.

The trackhoe driver said he was upset because he had work to do, cleaning up the Mon Bijou bin site, and he complained that officers restricted traffic to the area too early in the day.

"Look how far the trucks are. The people ain't reach here yet, and if I can't work, then they can't pass," he said.

After some coaxing by a V.I. Police detective, the driver rolled his machine off the road and back into the bin site.

The Mon Bijou J'ouvert wrapped up just after 11 a.m., with the bands leading the crowds into Mon Bijou.

The Crucian Christmas Festival J'ouvert takes place at 5 a.m. Wednesday and travels from Hannah's Rest to the Festival Village area.

- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email fstokes@dailynews.vi

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