Jan. 6, 2005 Latecomers were early to Thursdays massive tramp through the streets of Frederiksted. Scheduled to begin at 5 a.m. the much-anticipated j'ouvert did not start swinging until around 8:30. But once the revelry started no one seemed to mind. The music took control and over 2,000 people took position behind their favorite band and let their inhibitions loose.
J'ouvert is a tradition in the Caribbean and Crucians add their own style to the mix. Serious revelers came early to line the streets, and fashion seemed to play a big part in the fun.
"Let your imagination loose" was the code of the day for the females, tight, short shorts or "batty riders" were a fashion staple, paired with a white T-shirt creatively cut to reveal your best assets just right for "wokking up" on j'ouvert morning. Another must-have fashion statement was to have a cell phone constantly glued to your ear.
People came out to see and be seen. Groups of guys wore similar T-shirts and jeans. Ladies had on matching outfits and if you had enough cooperation to outfit several of your friends in the same attire you could create an even bigger spectacle.
Waiting for the music to fill the air some participants fueled up with the first meal of the day. The breakfast of choice was hot fresh titi bread and "box" cheese washed down with a cold Brow soda in the flavor of your choice.
And then the music started. Some rushed to claim a spot atop buildings to get an unobstructed view of the dancers. The bands came down in waves like a human tsunami, swallowing up people who stood on the sidelines until there was virtually no one left standing still. The waves of music sent the people into throes of gyrating movements.
The truck was bouncing as if it was in the midst of a major earthquake, causing the throng of dancers to bounce in unison. No sooner had one band passed than another horde of dancers appeared, flowing behind another band. Stroka Band, Xtaushan, Jam Cartel (formerly China Dan) X Press and Digital Band proceeded down King Street followed by loyal fans.
The uninhibited crowd showed some order in the midst of the confusion. "Wok Up!" bellowed the vocalist, and the crowd complied. "Put you hands in the air!" the crowd obeyed. Keeping in the theme of their road march song, "Gasoline," the Xtaushan band was dressed in firefighter gear. The vocalist atop the band truck belted out, "Eye Yah Yah Yah Yah Yah, Imagine this! Signal the plane!" (Hundreds of towels held by the dancers sliced the sky). "Jump into the air!" (Hundreds jumped as one). "Wave your fire hat!" (A sea of plastic fire hats waved).
Jam Cartel urged its fans to "Dance dutty Dutty nasty." Loose-limbed teens could be seen performing dance moves that could send ordinary people rushing to a chiropractor.
Between bands, groups of stoic-faced police officers in bulletproof vests, combat pants and boots formed a human barricade separating the troupes. One officer was seen atop a band truck cab his weapon, a hand-held video camera.
Revelers broke away from the fray on the tramp only to greet friends or relatives who were viewing from the sidelines a quick kiss and hug that left the recipient with a souvenir of "tramping sweat" before being swallowed up again by the wave of people advancing down the street.
Many parents took this opportunity to introduce their young children to the joys of festival. In the midst of thunderous music, children, some babes in arms, some pushed in strollers or held high above the crowd on shoulders, could be seen actively, or passively, participating in the early morning j'ouvert celebration.
The tramp ended about 11:30 a.m., releasing weary revelers at "Williams Ville" where a few enterprising food booths were open to serve the hungry hordes a satisfying breakfast of fried chicken legs and johnnycakes.
"Excellent!" was Territorial Chief Novell Francis' impression of the j'ouvert. "We had adequate officers to ensure crowd control." Francis said there was one "small skirmish" that was "quickly quelled. Things went well we had air support [with a helicopter] from homeland security and the Territorial Court marshals." Francis said the public played a major role in the absence of violence. "They are our eyes and ears and quickly reported any suspicious activity."
Thursday night is Latin night in "Williams Ville." Come out and salsa to the sounds of Liquid Sounds, El Poly de la Bachatta, El Groups Wao from Puerto Rico and D.J. Brache.
Friday is the childrens parade and Saturday the adults parade in Frederiksted. Both parades begin at 10 am.
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