A full slate of seven contestants pushed this year’s Carnival Queen Selection Show until 1 a.m. Sunday, with a beaming Elisa M. Thomas being crowned the winner.
Judging for the annual competition actually begins weeks before the event, with contestants conducting their initial interviews with the judges. In previous years, queen contestants have been unveiled debutante style at formal gatherings and are scored on the way they interact with and respond to the crowd. The first interview, along with their overall points from the selection show determines the winner.
This time around, it was clear throughout the evening that competition was stiff, as each girl dazzled round after round, from the swimwear segment to the final question and answer. Multiple crowd favorites even emerged, as the contestants filled up this year’s show with larger than life costumes and innovative acts.
Winning big in the Best Cultural Wear category, this year’s second runner up Shiryra Crabb donned the sixteenth century garb of Sir Francis Drake and illustrated how the famous privateer would spy on Spanish ships passing through Drake’s Passage. Dressed in red velvet and gold from head to waist, Crabb’s skirt opened up to reveal the panoramic view of Magens Bay visible from Drake’s Seat, while a represetation of the actual red stone bench was attached to her back.
Crabb had the audience exploding in fits of laughter as she pulled out a wooden donkey head with reins and danced around the stage – a reference to the donkey rides that have been offered for decades at the lookout point to both residents and visitors alike.
First runner up J’Lisa A. Chesterfield also the had the packed crowd at Lionel Roberts Stadium on their collective feet during the segment, as she swept across the stage dressed as Fortsberg on St. John and depicted the beginning of the 1733 slave revolt that rocked the island for seven months. Chesterfield’s headdress was a miniature of the actual fort, while her skirt displayed figurines of slaves that went in during the battle.
The air shook with sounds of cannon fire as Chesterfield blew into tubes connected to her head piece, while screams echoed as she stabbed the air with a prop knife and narrated the chain of events.
Chesterfield also picked up this year’s Miss Photogenic Award.
Best Talent went to Precious M. Flaharty, who, dressed as a doll from “Sam’s Puppet Shop," lit up the night with glowing batons and a tight majorette routine. In a metallic purple and gold costume, Flaharty lay down on the stage at one point during the act and twirled with her hands in the air, never breaking formation – even when a second baton was thrown in near the end. Her performance ended with a smooth split across the floor, and an ear-to-ear smile that had the crowd erupting with applause.
Flaharty also won this year’s Miss Popularity Award.
Miss Cooperative and Miss Congeniality went to Chavante J. Marsh, whose props during the talent segment included a video projector and white movie screen. Stirring the crowd’s curiosity as she emerged from behind dressed as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, Marsh had turned their quizzical brows into smiles when the projector was turned on and a homemade version of the film was played, with Marsh dressed in different segments as the lion, tin man and scarecrow.
The screams reached a crescendo when the Wizard – an animated talking bust of Trevor Nicholas "Daddy" Friday – ended the film, and Marsh, as Dorothy, was finally able to return home to her territory for Carnival.
But Thomas drew the applause early on, as she emerged in the first segment in a blue one-piece swimsuit and white feathered fans, which she swirled flamenco-style in tribute to the Carnival season. Thomas, also last year’s Miss Charlotte Amalie High School, exuded confidence as she moved from one side of the stage to the other, displaying her costume to the judges.
In the cultural wear segment, Thomas dressed as the Franklin Delano Roosevelt V.I. Veterans Memorial Park, complete with the pillars honoring each branch of the armed forces and the yellow bandstand that is constructed in front of the park each year for local dignitaries watching the Carnival parades. Even the park’s brick pathways were on her costume, lined with gold glitter.
Singing was the first of Thomas’ talents, as she emerged, Venus de Milo style, out of a life-sized pink seashell. Meant to be the ballerina in the middle of a beautiful music box, Thomas sang “One Moment in Time” to the audience, and then transitioned – in keeping with her theme – into a classical ballet routine set to calypso music.
The one of a kind act – most of her fellow contestants went with the more traditional calypso dance routines – earned points with both the judges and the crowd, as Thomas pulled one more trick out of her sleeve by bringing the streets of old New York to the V.I. stage with a routine set to “Tu Vuò Fà L’Americano.”
In the final question and answer segment – in which each contestant was asked to name a Virgin Islander whose contributions have made life better for the people of the territory – Thomas listed the accomplishments of former Gov. Charles W. Turnbull, who she said was able to “understand the plight of education and its needs.”
“And also within the Virgin Islands, he was able to understand the needs of our territory and people and find ways to improve it,” Thomas said. She added that the contributions of various Virgin Islanders are the focus of the new “Wall of Fame” at Charlotte Amalie High School.
Also competing this year were Ronessa S. Frederick and Kareema D. Brown.