Dec. 11, 2005 The brilliant 28-foot Norfolk pine tree was lighted; the St. Anne's Chapel and the Voices of Love choirs sang; the National Guard played; local celebrities spoke; Rev. Neil Scantlebury delivered the benediction; bands played; people danced and sang.
And Christmas officially came to Frenchtown Saturday night.
Gathered in the parking lot by the Joseph Aubain Ballpark, about 100 members of the community came together, as they have for years and years, dressed in season finery, including some Santa hats and several pairs of antlers.
This is probably its 46th year of the ceremony, though neither Henry nor Allan Richardson of the Frenchtown Civic Organization, which traditionally holds the event, could say for sure. Both were raised right around the corner and have attended the ceremonies almost as far back as they can remember.
Master of Ceremonies Allan Richardson welcomed the cheerful crowd surrounding the bandstand in front of the tree. "The tree was donated by Paul Kalloo Sr., who died before he could give it to us," Richardson said. "He gave us trees enough for seven years, imagine that. God bless him." The event booklet lists a dedication in memoriam to Kalloo, who died Dec. 2.
Henry Richardson officially welcomed the crowd and introduced the guests, including one "special" guest, by first name only."Betsy has lived here for 25 years. We remember her from across the street at the old Bar Normandie. Betsy has her own bar now, and she has added so much to the community. We have asked her to light the tree tonight."
Betsy Sheehan lighted the tree along with Miss Carenage Shanelle Brin, Addie Ottley, Sen. Lorraine Berry and Miss Virgin Islands Je'taime Cerge. Ottley delivered the evening's main address, with accolades to the Frenchtown community, "who keep tradition alive."
It was a bittersweet evening for one member of the National Guard band. Band Master Juan Harrigan said his First Sergeant and clarinet player Lloyd Roberts was retiring.
"Tonight is my last," Roberts said offstage. "My heart is filled with sadness after 30 years playing with the band, I'm leaving my comrades. But I have had a wonderful time. We have played all over the world, Bolivia, Honduras, Algeria. I will miss it."
On the other end of the spectrum, the youth choir from St. Anne's Chapel sang a sweet rendition of Vive Le Vent in French. That's Jingle Bells. The small group gathered around their leaders afterward to reflect on their act. "You were very good," Charlotte Amalie High School senior Celine Edwards told them. Edwards said she isn't part of the choir. "But I help them if they sing too high, or too low, I show them how to change it. I like to motivate them. I help Marie Magras, the choir leader."
And then, and then … Santa arrived. And not a minute too soon. Actually, he had made a pass around the parking lot earlier, a bit prematurely, but he got spotted, and the kiddies adamantly lined up anyway anxiously awaiting his official arrival.
He was quickly forgiven once there, however, as 40 or so youngsters climbed up on his lap one at a time, and came away with paint sets, doll dishes, trucks, and big smiles.
And then, and then… everyone got some of the traditional ham and sweet bread, and the night's dancing began.
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.