Dec. 7, 2005 — If Christmas music from the Bertha C. Boschulte Junior High School steel drum band didn't draw shopper's attention, young people walking on stilts and wearing Santa Claus hats outside the shops at Havensight Mall caught some eyes.
The band and the young mocko jumbies – along with Santa Claus, numerous local bands and a lot of food – were part of the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony at sunset Wednesday.
Steel pan player Kamoi Ryan, 13, a student at BCB, said the appreciative group of listeners seemed larger than last year.
Linda Pinson, director of the Havensight Merchant's Association, confirmed that.
Two years ago, she said, the Merchant's Association handed out 300 gifts to children. This year, the group planned to hand out 1,400 gifts. Younger children received sand pails and shovels this year, and older children got a hula-hoop "so they can get their exercise," Pinson said.
The tree lights – red, yellow, green and blinking white – came on as scheduled at 6 p.m. Edward Thomas, chief executive officer of the West Indian Co. Ltd., said the tree lighting was the "official start of Christmas season in St. Thomas." After the crowd's applause and whistles stopped, Thomas said "Merry Christmas to one and all."
Shoppers crowded the sidewalk and spilled into the parking lot waiting for Santa Claus – a boon to the Havensight Mall businesses that stayed open late for the event.
"If I get business, I'll stay open," said Nanki Kaur, whose father owns Carnival Jewels & Treasures at Havensight Mall. The business opened before last year's tree lighting ceremony, and Kaur said many people do some holiday shopping that evening.
And shoppers had plenty of choices. In addition to the dozens of Havensight Mall shops, local artisans, business owners and groups set up tents selling everything from jewelry to Christmas cards between shop buildings I and II.
The scent of rotis, johnny cakes, kalaloo and other local foods also greeted shoppers, many of whom walked around the booth area with dinner or drinks.
Around the corner, a dozen Lockhart Elementary School students danced for the crowd at the pool at shop building IV, with local band Milo's Kings accompanying them. Lockhart school also had a booth selling hand-made Christmas cards to support student activities.
Pinson said she had been planning the event since the summer, and already had ideas for improvements to the event for 2006.
"I'd like to keep them a surprise," she said, smiling.
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