April 29, 2006 – Carnival Adult Parade 2006 was a lot about the loss of Nicholas "Nick" Friday, which might have been the reason for the subdued atmosphere that seemed to hang over the festivities at times.
The immensely popular leader of the equally popular Jam Band died in October at the age of 43 from complications from diabetes. The community was shocked and saddened. Friday had won 20 road march competitions over his years as a musician, and it was expected that his loss would be particularly notable during Adult Parade this year.
Delegate Donna M. Christensen said it seemed as though something was missing. "Maybe Friday is a factor," she said. "This is the first one without him."
Group after group played, "Carnival with no Jam Band is no Carnival at all." Others, including Jam Band, played "A Tribute to Friday" by Mingle Band: "You were here with us, but now you're gone / We carry the torch of love / But we're movin' on / But we'll keep missing Daddy Friday," went part of the song.
It could hardly be said there was no Carnival with more than 60 troupes, floupes, steel bands and individual entries making their way down the road. But the crowd somehow seemed thinner and the joy less effusive.
Not unlike a roller coaster, however, the mood seemed to go up and down, especially as the first big troupes began to make their way into Post Office Square sometime after 2 p.m.
Also helping spirits soar were the silver and gold anniversaries being celebrated by the Superior Court Rising Stars Steel Orchestra and the Elskoe and Associates troupe respectively.
But bringing them down again was the tribute paid to Sherette James by the Infernos. James, who had been a stalwart member of the troupe, was shot and killed in March at the age of 22. After being presented with a special plaque in her daughter's memory, James' mother, Carolyn Brunn, wiped tears from her eyes as she then watched members of the troupe- red headdresses bobbing like bright red flames in the back light of the setting sun – perform a special dance routine in her daughter's honor.
But despite moments of deep sadness — including the moment when special honors were given and received by Friday's two daughters, Nicole, 21, and Nikkiah, 11 — few could resist the enthusiasm and sheer size of the Gypsies. The troupe portrayed the "Glamorous Gypsies of Siam" aglow in elaborate golden bejeweled crowns. Spirits seemed to lift as they danced their way through the square. Troupe member Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone assessed the crowd's lethargy differently. "It's the heat," he said.
St. Thomas administrator James O'Bryan Jr. had yet a different take on the apparent lack of enthusiasm. O'Bryan said the acrimony between the Carnival Committee and the V.I. Legislature and the Tourism Department over money is what had cast a pall over the annual almost month-long celebration that marked its 50 year anniversary two years ago. "It's supposed to be fun," O'Bryan said. But he was hopeful that the problems that started a few years ago when senators asked for a financial accounting from the committee and continued this year when Tourism Commissioner Pamela Richards withheld funds that help support the event, saying she wanted a signed contract, would eventually subside. "Carnvial is bigger than any of them," O'Bryan said.
An entirely different spirit entered the square with the Zulu troupe. A heart-pounding jungle beat coupled with wild screeching sounds, lions roaring and deep-throated tribal vocals, brought a mysterious almost sinister feeling to the festivities. Though the group of 43 men and about 20 women has been performing for only four years, the men presented physical feats of tumbling and rolling over their own shoulders and a kind of shadow boxing that were impeccably executed. The entire troupe's performance was well organized and the members ominously remained in Zulu character as they performed for the judges and onlookers. You could believe, if only for a moment, that you had been transported to deepest, darkest Africa.
Later, dragged out from one of the longest parades in recent memory, Zulu troupe member Antonio Wood credited its leader Charles Matthew – King Shaka – with giving the troupe its momentum and style. Wood also explained that several of the men who performed the physical feats in the square had been studying Kapoera, which Wood described as a martial art.
Political jesting brought moments of hilarity throughout the day. Sen. Celestino White Sr. — after "marrying" his former senatorial foe, Sen. Lorraine Berry, in what many saw as an unholy union last year at Carnival — was thrown out on his ear, clothes and all, this year on the road.
Dressed in tattered clothing and carrying a hobo's knapsack — a far cry from the tuxedo he wore during the "marriage" — White begged Gov. Charles W. Turnbull not to let Berry take the house, while a blue house with an image of Berry in one of the windows trailed behind him. Meanwhile, clothes were being thrown out the windows as White implored, "At least let me have the house: oh God I want the house."
He and Berry had formed one of those strange bedfellow alliances, not along party lines, at the beginning of the 26th Legislature, which left Berry as Senate president. In a political move last year, Berry abandoned White in favor of a Democratic majority, still leaving her as Senate President.
Few performers or troupe members got dragged down by what Lt. Gov. Vargrave Richards called the at times "somber" mood, however. Even Roy Galloway, who started having his body painted at 6 a.m. by his wife, Anne Marie, for his role as a tiger, took it all in good stride. After all, as several revelers repeated, "It's Carnival, Baby."
And despite his assessment, the lieutenant governor got right into the action, taking pictures with his cell phone of the scantily clad "candy" women in the Intrigues troupe. Dressed in a variety of skimpy bikinis and sexy outfits – the troupe, which started in 2000, lifted the mood and got plenty of attention.
When asked where the Intrigues managed to find dozens of gorgeous women with perfect bodies, one troupe member said, "St. Thomas, St. Croix, New York, Atlanta, wherever we can."
Moving back to another less positive note, along with the sparring, the heat and the missing people, the whole shebang got started nearly an hour and a half late. The grand marshal moved through the square, marking the beginning of the parade at about 11:30 a.m. It was scheduled to start at 10 a.m. Although it is not at all unusual for parade to start late, this year it left the Traditional Indians, who always end the parade, moving into the square just before 9 p.m. – two hours after dark. But Caswil Callender, executive director of the Carnival committee, called the Source to say the parade started on time. He said the parade started at 10 a.m. but it took and hour and a half for the grand marshal to reach Post Office Square from Western Cemetery.
At least two of the Indians did not care. James Lloyd, who now lives in Washington, D.C., where he works at the Pentagon, said, "This is what I live for." He added, "I always try to get off every year for this." His longtime friend, Assistant Fire Chief Ira Williams, who was performing his 43rd year in Carnival, agreed. "Lots of times we don't get to the stadium until midnight," Williams said. "We usually miss the fireworks. That wasn't a problem for the last few years since there haven't been any fireworks."
But Jerome Richards, visiting from Baltimore, Md., might have summed up Carnival best. Richards wasn't born on St. Thomas although he said his parents were. "I came here 10 years ago to bury my father. I've been coming back ever since." When asked why, he said, "I felt the love."
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