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Alayah Watley, Khari Newton, and Marley Robinson: New Royalty of Crucian Christmas Festival



The Crucian Christmas Festival Village burst into a vibrant celebration of culture and youth on Tuesday, with the crowning of its new carnival royalty – encompassing roles of Prince, Princess, Duchess, Duke, and Jr. Miss.

The event commenced with the young contestants delivering their introductory speeches, setting the stage for the eagerly anticipated question and answer round. In the Jr. Miss category, 17-year-old Jayla Newton and Alayah Watley showcased their eloquence and spontaneity. Newton highlighted the challenges of technology-related bullying, emphasizing its impact on mental health. Watley, on the other hand, focused on the issue of violence among her peers.

The Duke category featured five-year-old Khari Newton from Eulalie Rivera Elementary School, who charmingly spoke about his snack-giving favorite teacher. Ray Anthony Brown, a Claude O. Markoe Elementary School student, praised his teacher for the challenging work that aids academic achievement.

Duchess contestant Marley Robinson expressed admiration for her helpful teacher at Ricardo Richards Elementary School. Seven-year-old Re’khia Peterson and Jaelyn Rodriguez, from St. Patrick’s Catholic School, also shared their appreciation for their teachers, highlighting the positive impact on their learning experiences.

The audience was then treated to a musical interlude, with performances by the young vocalist Avery and the dynamic Juego, each delivering captivating renditions.

In the swimsuit segment, the Jr. Miss contestants adhered to strict guidelines ensuring modesty. Newton’s suit, symbolizing a Virgin Islands sunset, and Watley’s fiery red attire with a Virgin Islands eagle crest coverup, were standout pieces.

The “fun fashion” segment allowed contestants to express school spirit and creative flair. Khari Newton’s “Super Khari” and Ray Anthony Brown’s “Go Ray Ray Go” characters celebrated Crucian culture and school life. Duchess contestants embraced themes from Red Riding Hood to Tahitian princess, showcasing transformative and colorful outfits.

The Jr. Miss contestants shone in their “old Hollywood” themed attire, with Newton in a plaid-accented white satin ensemble and Watley in a pearl-embellished yellow jumpsuit with a plaid-lined cape.

The platform presentations highlighted their commitment to community projects. Newton’s “Safe Space Project” proposed mentorship and empathy-building workshops, while Watley’s “Read Between the Signs” aimed to foster American Sign Language learning among high schoolers, enhancing understanding of the Hard of Hearing and deaf communities.

The night culminated in the crowning of the winners amid enthusiastic support from the audience. Khari Newton, Marley Robinson, and Alayah Watley were declared St. Croix Festival Duke, Duchess, and Jr. Miss for 2023, respectively, with prizes to be distributed throughout their reign.

Deputy Commissioner of Tourism Shamari Haynes emphasized the event’s significance in making the festival village a focal point for the Crucian Christmas Festival, heralding a future rich in cultural celebration and community engagement.

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Estate Whim Museum Recognized as One of America’s Most Endangered Historic Sites



The National Trust for Historic Preservation recently unveiled its annual list of America’s 11 most endangered historic places, with the Estate Whim Museum in Frederiksted, St. Croix, earning a spot due to its significant yet vulnerable status.

Carol Quillen, president and CEO of the National Trust, emphasized the evolving recognition of American history, noting, “Our collective idea of American history has expanded to include those previously left at the margins. This year’s list reflects that broader perspective, recognizing sites across all U.S. territories as integral parts of our national narrative.”

The Estate Whim Museum’s history dates back to the Danish colonization of St. Croix, starting as a cotton and sugar plantation in 1743 and utilizing the labor of enslaved Africans until the 1848 emancipation sparked by a revolt. Post-emancipation, the site witnessed the 1978 Fireburn labor revolt. Acquired by the U.S. government in 1932 after the U.S. purchased the Virgin Islands, the 12-acre site has been preserved as a museum by the St. Croix Landmarks Society since 1954.

Today, the museum displays a range of artifacts, including Crucian furniture and decorative arts within its original sugar mills and slave quarters. These historic structures suffered extensive damage during Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. The ongoing recovery has been slow, forcing the museum to rely on temporary measures such as tarpaulins to shield the fragile structures crafted by 18th-century enslaved masons and carpenters.

The urgency of repairs is clear to the Landmarks Society, which is rallying support and resources for preservation. Highlighting the museum’s endangered status aims to inspire a collective effort to safeguard this crucial part of USVI history.

In tandem with the endangered listing, a new initiative promises potential restoration. “We have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of the Virgin Islands’ Office of Disaster Recovery to fast-track the much-needed repairs to the museum properties,” explained Valencio Jackson, chair of the St. Croix Landmarks Society. The MOU positions the Office of Disaster Recovery as the project’s lead management entity.

Governor Bryan, who endorsed the MOU, expressed, “The Estate Whim Museum is not just a pivotal historical site but also a symbol of the resilience and spirit of our people. Let us advance together, strengthened by our past, as we restore and rejuvenate this cornerstone of Virgin Islands history.”

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Crown Bay Bustles with Annual Carnival Food Fair Festivities



ST. THOMAS — Wednesday transformed Crown Bay into a bustling hub of activity during the much-anticipated annual Carnival Food Fair. The event drew crowds that included mainstay vendors who offered a taste of the Virgin Islands’ rich culinary traditions. Adding to the vibrant atmosphere were hundreds of tourists from the cruise ship Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas, who discovered a delightful array of local food, arts, and crafts.

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2024 St. Thomas Carnival Crowns New Royalty: Keemayah Ford, Jazmine Samuel, and Ne’keya Fraser



This past Saturday, the St. Thomas Carnival stage sparkled with talent and creativity as seven young contestants vied for the coveted titles of Petite Princess, Carnival Princess, and Junior Miss in a pageant filled with culture, couture, and charisma.

The evening kicked off with the youngest contestants, five-year-old Keemayah Ford and Nahkiya Jeffers, charming the audience with their vibrant costumes and thematic portrayals linked to the Carnival’s spirit. Ford, adorned in a pink and white majorette ensemble, and Jeffers, in a carousel costume rich with cultural imagery, set a high standard for the night.

The competition intensified as contestants like Amiah Motta and Kaysiah Charleswell showcased their unique interpretations of Virgin Islands culture through fashion, with Motta donning a chef’s uniform trimmed in madras to honor local cuisine, and Charleswell, dressed as a flight attendant, inviting the audience to fly with “VI Nice” airlines.

Jazmine Samuel captivated spectators by seamlessly shifting characters, engaging in a dynamic two-sided dialogue, enhancing her performance with rapid costume and voice changes. In the Junior Miss category, Ne’keyah Fraser innovatively portrayed an AI GPS computer, promising to navigate attendees through the best of Carnival 2024, while D’nae Todman embraced her role as a cultural culinary guru.

The event’s creative segments were nothing short of theatrical, with contestants transforming their outfits onstage to represent themes ranging from candy couture to career-focused attire. Samuel’s quick-change abilities shone brightly as her outfit morphed from gummy bears to cupcakes and finally to a stunning tiered lollipop dress.

In tribute to local icons and cultural narratives, the contestants adorned their outfits with elements that spoke to the Virgin Islands’ rich heritage. Ne’keya Fraser paid homage to Helen Sebastien Gabriel, a matriarch in the local baton twirling community, by transitioning from a contemporary outfit to a traditional majorette costume.

The talent portion of the evening revealed the depth of the contestants’ skills, from musical performances inspired by local legends to dramatic representations of personal and cultural stories.

As the event neared its conclusion, the formalwear segment displayed elegance and sophistication, with each contestant sharing personal stories through their garment choices, enhancing the emotional impact of their presentations.

After nearly seven hours of performances, the judges crowned Keemayah Ford as Petite Princess, Jazmine Samuel as Carnival Princess, and Ne’keya Fraser as Jr. Miss, each embodying the spirit and promise of the Virgin Islands’ vibrant culture.

This year’s pageant not only celebrated the talents and potential of its participants but also underscored the enduring cultural richness of the St. Thomas Carnival, promising a bright future for its newest royals.

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