Even before the ribbon cutting and official opening, people of all ages, dressed for the holidays, streamed into the Carnival Village Friday to sample the food, enjoy the rides, and music and play games of chance.
The ribbon was cut by Miss St. Croix AnuMaat Davis-Kahina and witnessed by Miss St. Croix Caribbean Culture Sharifa Browne, Carnival Princess Jahmayah Hospedales, 11, and five-year-old Ahnyra Messer, Carnival duchess. Dodson James, St. Croix administrator, Sen. Sammuel Sanes, Davidson Charlemagne, and Clive and Ionie Williams also stood by for the ribbon cutting and greeted the crowd. Williams represented her late father, Romney Williams, to whom the village was dedicated.
Charlemagne, president of the Carnival committee, welcomed the crowd and said no violence would be tolerated in the Village because “in here is family.”
James talked about how the Village has “shaped culture.” He praised Romney Williams, who died in June, as a hard working member of the Carnival Committee for more than 50 years. Williams said her father “gave, gave and gave some more.”
“My father was honored in life. Now he is honored in death,” Williams said.
Kahina, in a strong, melodious voice, sang her greeting, and said she has worn a crown from birth because she is a proud Virgin Islander.
There were 25 food booths offering tastes and beverages from all over the Caribbean. The rides included those that whirled and twisted, a Ferris wheel and race cars. The games of luck and skill involved throwing softballs and plastic rings to win cash and prizes.
One of the food venues was IHOP. According to owner Sana Joseph Smith, this is the fourth year she and her staff have prepared their unique menu, which includes pancakes and mozzarella sticks.
“It’s great marketing and fun for the staff to make new things with our products,” Smith said.
Live music started around 8 p.m. with entertainment by Stylee Band, Roly Poly – Mr. Killa from Grenada and others.
Artist and retired high school teacher John Jones was meeting his wife Yemaya Jones at the Village for a tradition — to enjoy food from a woman who cared for their children. He said they would sample a lot of dishes and stay until midnight or 1 a.m.
“We’ll wait and see what the music is,” Jones said, adding that some of the musicians are former students of the Joneses and they like to support the young artists.
Sisters Alma and Alda Smith also arrived early and planned to stay late. They were wearing Santa hats, drinking cane juice and eager to “sample all of the food.” Already, they had eaten lechon (roast pork), conch, fungi and johnny cakes. Alma lives Houston and hasn’t been to Carnival since 1999. Alda lives on St. Croix.
Last night, the Smiths went to the Quadrille dancing at St. Gerard’s Hall until around 3 a.m. They were planning to meet relatives again Friday night and again enjoy the music.
“The best part (of Carnival Village) is reconnecting with friends,” Alma Smith said.
Much of Carnival will be streamed live and is available online at www.stxcarnival.com, according to Melody Rames, spokeswoman for the Carnival committee.