April 24, 2002 – With downtown Charlotte Amalie playing host to two huge celebrations at the same time for much of this week, the word from Carnival officials Wednesday afternoon was so far, so good.
The 50th anniversary V.I. Carnival events have attracted thousands of Virgin Islanders to the Village, Market Square, and the streets of town. Meantime, about 5,000 Navy personnel were enjoying liberty from the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, which arrived over the weekend and was scheduled to depart Thursday morning.
Naturally, a number of visiting service personnel took in the fete.
Petty Officer Mike Gagliardo from New Jersey said he enjoyed the opening of the Village on Monday night — and he and his buddies weren't shy about trying local food and beverages.
"It was really nice," he said. "There was a steelband playing. We had some rum drinks we had never heard of before. That was fun, and we tried some food. It was really good. I don't know what we were eating, but we went from booth to booth," he said as he made his way to the Food Fair Thursday to try some more.
Endless groups of servicemen and women spent the five days zooming across the island on safari buses, some headed for the beach, others to and from St. John, where two smaller ships were anchored off shore. But droppingin on different Carnival events was a special treat.
V.I. Carnival Committee member Derrick Gumbs said the Navy's visit at this time was a plus for all. "They've been coming through — they've been in the Village and they have been enjoying the Food Fair," he said.
Clusters of uniformed Shore Patrol personnel were much in evidence at the Food Fair. While ship's personnel are on liberty, their job is to work with local police to provide security. Some of them managed to combine business with pleasure as they nibbled on tasty treats as they moved through the crowds. Some waved to groups of small children who waved back at them.
Gagliardo and crewmate Greg Johnson from Washington, D.C., were among the first enlisted personnel from the aircraft carrier to take in the downtown St. Thomas scene. One of the sailors delving into shops along the waterfront, PFC 1st Class John Smith, said it was his first trip to St. Thomas. "It's nice," he said as he joined a group of friends heading into a store selling motorcycle paraphernalia.
Smith said he and his friends had some simple plans for their day ashore: "Get some food and go to the beach."
Savvy enterprises made special efforts to welcome the Navy's business. Banks featured automated teller machines. Taxi drivers and tour guides parked along the wharf near the Coast Guard station staging area, awaiting the arrival of local ferry boats that were running shuttle between the shore and the ship.
Also waiting on shore were rows of port-a-potties. A clerk in the office at Lew Henley's Sewage Disposal said the Navy visit had brought extra demand for its services in downtown Charlotte Amalie at a time when the staff already is busy lining the Carnival parade route with portable toilets.

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