St. Thomas pulses with the music of J'ouvert
Published: May 2, 2014
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ST. THOMAS - The vibes were as good as the vibrations Thursday at J'ouvert.
Thousands of people were bouncing to the beat of soca music that could be heard for miles around the island. The bands, each vying for the following of the crowd, had fans going crazy, jumping in the air, throwing their hands up and dousing each other with water.
From 4 a.m. until about 11 a.m., people spilled over the sidewalks of Veterans Drive while dancing - mainly grinding and twerking - and drinking.
Meanwhile they had plenty of rhythm provided by the bands, which included Cool Session, Triple K, Volume International, Poizon and Stylee, which unfortunately had generator problems and was unable to perform during much of the procession.
"This is crazy," said Ray Parris, visiting from Miami for his first J'ouvert experience. "I brought my bicycle down here just so I could ride up and down and see everything."
For some, it was all about the wardrobe, as many people tramping down the streets were sporting neon, gold and animal prints. Patterned tights and gems galore were all the rage as well.
Groups of friends and families put together outfits based on everything from the Muppets to the "street sweepers," who said all you needed to sweep a street was to "move your bum," according to "street sweeper" Kim Goodings, who is from St. Thomas but now lives in Connecticut.
Twin sisters Tiffany Francis and Tissany Francis wore tight-fitting "SWAT" team attire.
"With all the violence, we want to take control," Tiffany Francis said of their outfits. "We're going to take control of J'ouvert."
In the sea of people, Minnie Mouses, panda bears and leopards all could be seen flouncing around in tutus, knee socks and bandanas.
Three hundred people were covered in paint after participating in the early morning J'ouvert "Kaleidoscope" experience organized by the J'ouvert 4VIGirls troupe.
That event, which started at 4 a.m., was one of the handful that got going at 4 a.m., before daybreak, as is traditional.
J'ouvert, which roughly translates as "daybreak" from the French term "jour overt," originated in Trinidad.
Stories vary slightly as to how and why it started, but most recognize the celebration as initially having been a Caribbean people's declaration to foreign ruling powers of their freedom to celebrate Carnival at their own will.
"We're just trying to find a solution to keep our traditions," said Denise Kaalund, one of the organizers from the 4VIGirls troupe.
Kaalund recalled in years past that the start time of J'ouvert kept getting pushed up because the police wanted to be able to see in the light, to prevent violence.
Since the celebration kept getting shut down after violent outbursts, Kaalund and her friends decided they needed to bring back the early start.
To entice participants who wanted to register with their troupe, they brought water-based paint to be mixed in to people's water bottles, and then participants brought baby powder, another traditional J'ouvert accessory.
"You just go around and squirt it everywhere, and throw it everywhere," Kaalund said.
4VIGirls, made of four friends, intends to continue the Kaleidoscope event in years to come.
"Why wouldn't we?" Kaalund said.
- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.