Blog Schedule

I post on Monday with an occasional random blog thrown in for good measure. I do my best to answer all comments via email and visit around on the days I post.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Part II - The St. John Festival

The St. John Festival, celebrating Emancipation and Independence, happens the week of the Fourth, culminating in a noisy, raucous, dance filled parade and fireworks. There is really no way to accurately describe it.

What I can do is post a few pictures of the parade.

Large beautiful women, scantly clad in colorful costumes, abound. The majority of these women are very physically fit. A typical Fourth of July parade can last five to six hours and they dance and jump and prance the whole time during the heat of the day. They let it all hang out. They should be an inspiration to all large women; that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.

Music is essential, the louder the better. Between every troop or float there is some kind of music. It might be a steel band, but more often it is an electrified Calypso band or recorded music. A semi pulls a flatbed, the flatbed carries a huge generator which supplies the power to the amps, instruments and mixing boards. This is just one example of such a semi. The large blue “box” behind the cab is the generator. Look at the size of those speakers! At one point I was holding an empty soda can in my hand and the can was vibrating to the beat of the music. Imagine what was going on in my chest. If you can’t handle loud, the Fourth of July parade on St. John is not the place for you.

Here’s a picture of a young drummer, probably about 12 or 13 years old. He was quite good. Notice the people standing and sitting right next to speakers.

Here’s a man dressed as a large butterfly.

These girls, dressed in patriotic colors, are dancing on stilts and are a good ten feet tall.

Stilt dancing was traditionally preformed only by men. They are called Moko Jumbies. (Jumbies are mischievous spirits. Moko Jumbies are somewhat more serious and perhaps malevolent.)The stilt dancing Moko Jumbie originated in Africa. Years ago, back in the 1950’s and 60’s they wore a unique costume which included long colorful slacks to cover the stilts, a grass skirt, a tall pointed hat and bull whip, which he would crack above the heads of the crowd as he danced and hopped around on one stilt. They were often anywhere from 16 to 18 feet tall.
We don’t see those kinds of Moko Jumbies as much now-a-days. But here’s a picture of two man dressed in a somewhat traditional way. And, you can see how tall the one in brown is in comparison to the people.

Tourists always have a good time. Here’s a lad surrounded by some lovely ladies. Note the two beers he has in his hand. He’s out to party and have a good time.

Here are the Flintstones and Dino.

There are troops that have been traditional to all parades (Carnival on St. Thomas, Christmas on St. Croix). Some of these troops have been in existence since the 1950’s. Among them are the Indians who always end the parade, the clowns and the Zulus. Here’s a picture of some of the Zulus.

I always wanted to be a clown. But, like the stilt dancers, the clowns were strictly a male only troop (though not anymore.) The clowns in the islands are not at all like the circus clowns most everyone is familiar with. The older clowns, the adults and members who had been in the troop a long time, sometimes had costumes made in velvet patchwork. These costumes were passed down from father to son. Traditionally the costumes where a bright patchwork of calicoes, trimmed with ball fringe, small mirrors and jingle bells. They wore masks, hats and gloves. They also carried whips made from the leaves of the sansaveria (or mother-in-law’s tongue, I don't know how to spell it) which they cracked as they leapt and danced around the legs of the Moko Jumbie. They did this to keep him in line, to keep him from disrupting the enjoyment of the crowd. Clowns had a serious job, keeping those evil spirits away, hence the whips, bells and mirrors.

Nowadays the clowns sometimes make a political statement, as these two who are sporting pictures of Obama. Their costumes are made of velvet.

Here’s a close-up. He is carrying a whip over his shoulder.

And that is barely a taste of what the St. John Fourth of July Festival and Celebration is all about.


  1. Very cool!! You're right that typical US Independence Day celebrations don't hold a candle to what you've got! :)

    Great pictures. Thanks for sharing. :)

  2. Beautiful pictures, Bish! Love seeing a slice of life in your Islands.

  3. Really neat! I like the zulus the best. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Thanks! I only wish there could be more.

  5. Wow! What amazing photos!

    Nice to know that the girls can now walk on stilts and become clowns too!

  6. Awesome pictures! I love all the stilts. Often they can come across as herky jerky and awkward, but you managed to catch them like some kind of dance. Love the colors, costumes, and that amazing headdress!


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