April 14, 2002 – It was hard to tell who had more fun, the children or their parents and other adult family members, as living dolls strutted their stuff, toddlers stepped out and greased pigs gave pursuers a run for the pork at the V.I. Carnival Traditional Games Night held Friday at Lionel Roberts Stadium.
A number of tiny contestants in the Dressed Like a Doll competition paid tribute to Carnivals past. The winner, P'azhae Harrigan, was aglow in a green and purple floor-length satin gown with a peacock-feather headdress, a tribute to the recently deceased "Mistress of Mas," Gertrude Lockhart Melchior.
In the audience around the field, parents held babes in arms and kiddies by the hand who were the same tender ages as those competing onstage. Minutes after the winning "doll" was chosen, volunteers rolled out the red carpet, literally, for the next competitors — in the Toddlers Derby. The tiny contestants ran and/or crawled the mini-race in heats, one parent sending them off at the starting line and the other urging them on from the finish line.
Meanwhile, over at one side of the stadium, a group of small boys peered into a wooden pen at the quarry for the soon-to-come Greased Pig Contest — and at the two containers at the side of the pen filled with lard.
One organizer said the pigs were plenty slippery this year even before the lard was applied for the chase across the stadium field. "There were a total of 14 pigs," Cletis Clendinen said. "They all came from St. John. We lost four of them before they came to St. Thomas. When they got there, one got away in a greased-pig kind of situation. The guys who were cleaning the field, they went after him and caught him."
The pigs then were taken to the St. Thomas Agriculture Department facilities for safe-keeping before Friday night's event. "We put the cage on the back of a truck," Clendinen continued. "The cage slid off the back of the truck and they all got away. We got them all back. Then, on the way over from Agriculture today, one got away."
Once in the stadium, one got away — it fled a stampeding crowd by running underneath the Carnival stage. The rest kept a group of men in heavy rubber gloves busy wrestling them down and slathering them with lard. Then they were let go and the chase was on.
The first person to capture a pig, 9-year-old Tynesha George, stood catching her breath while the guys in the gloves tied a harness around the animal. For a while, she said, it was she and the pig against the rest of the crowd. "I was running, and they pushed me," she said. "I ran and ran until I caught it."
A family member said of Tynesha's prize porker, "We are going to take it to our farm. We have already have eight; now we have nine."
As line after line of contestants waited for "Ready, Set, Go," a mob of about 20 onlookers crowded the starting line. On "Go," everyone took off after the pig of the moment.
Many onlookers laughed and cheered, but some said they didn't like what they saw. "This is the first time I've seen something like this," Gerald McDonald, a visitor from Philadelphia, said. "I think this is cruel treatment — the pigs looked extremely scared." He added, "But it's very entertaining for the kids."
After the pig chases were over, everyone was worn out from exertion except the children, who energetically moved on to the next events, sack races and hooples — rolling a tire rim along at the end of a wire.
Complaints about cruelty to the animals prodded the V.I. Carnival Committee into dropping the greased-pig event several years ago. They brought it back this year as part of the 50th anniversary celebration. Longtime fans of the Carnival traditional games recalled the raucous days of years past. Venus Green said that one year she and an elderly neighbor had to flee in panic when a pig changed direction and charged toward them.
On Friday night, Green found herself standing in the winner's circle looking bemused at the sight of Tyrone Farley, her brother, posing for pictures with his pig. "I can't believe my brother caught the pig," she said. "I told my brother to let it loose on St. John and give it a good life, but I think he has some tastier plans."
As of Saturday morning, all was still well for the family's new addition. Green said she stopped by her brother's house before going to the supermarket and found the pig asleep on the porch.
Publisher's note : Like the St. Thomas Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much — and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice … click here.