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Enhanced Security Measures for Crucian Christmas Festival and President Biden’s Visit



The upcoming Crucian Christmas Festival, scheduled from December 26, 2023, to January 6, 2024, is set to be a showcase of heightened security and collaboration among various agencies, as emphasized by key public officials.

In a recent briefing to the Committee on Homeland Security, Justice and Public Safety, representatives from the V.I. Police Department (VIPD), Department of Public Works, and Department of Tourism, Division of Festivals, outlined their comprehensive preparations.

VIPD Commissioner Ray Martinez highlighted an intensive strategy, describing it as an “all hands on deck” effort to preserve the festival as a shining example of the United States Virgin Islands’ vibrancy. Martinez revealed a significant investment in security, with an anticipated $295,000 allocated for police overtime and support from various agencies, excluding the V.I. Port Authority.

While details of the security plan were not disclosed for strategic reasons, Martinez reassured lawmakers of its effectiveness, noting its innovative and situation-specific nature, particularly for an event of this scale and profile.

Coinciding with the festival is President Joe Biden’s anticipated visit to St. Croix, a tradition for his family during the New Year. The VIPD is taking the lead in ensuring robust security measures for the President’s stay.

Martinez promised a secure environment for all attendees, detailing the deployment of the VIPD Mobile Command Station, temporary surveillance enhancements, and increased foot and vehicular patrols. Addressing concerns from Senator Alma Francis-Heyliger, he assured that the heightened security in Frederiksted would not detract from law enforcement efforts elsewhere on the island.

A notable change to the festival’s schedule includes starting J’ouvert celebrations at 6:30 a.m. on January 4, a move motivated by safety concerns. Martinez explained that this adjustment caters to the evolving dynamics of festival-goers, ultimately serving the community’s interests. Responding to Senator Angel Bolques’s inquiries, Martinez emphasized their proactive approach to managing potential disturbances within the festival.

Underage drinking, a concern raised by Senator Javan James, prompted a discussion on preventive measures. Shamari Haynes, Deputy Director for the Department of Tourism’s Division of Festivals, detailed plans for mandatory signage at booths and the use of decoys to enforce age verification for alcohol sales.

Dodson James, Deputy Commissioner of Operations at the Department of Public Works, briefed senators on the extensive preparations for the festival. These include setting up viewing stands, parking arrangements, roadside maintenance, and road patching. He also noted the financial burden of these activities on the department’s budget, mentioning the challenges posed by unfunded requests.

This collaborative effort among various departments underscores the commitment to ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience for all participants, including the esteemed visit of President Biden.

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Celebrating Dominican Independence with Vibrant Festivities in St. Croix



The vibrant celebration of the Dominican Republic’s 180th independence anniversary, traditionally marked on February 27, found a jubilant expression in St. Croix this Sunday, February 26. This year’s event, the 15th of its kind on the island, was a colorful testament to the rich cultural heritage of the Dominican Republic, featuring traditional attire, music, and an array of significant traditions from the DR, alongside a demonstration of the community’s increasing economic influence.

Kicking off at the historic Basin Triangle in Christiansted, the parade made its way to Canegata Ballpark. The event culminated in a festive ceremony attended by dignitaries and community members alike, with local vendors offering a taste of Dominican cuisine and culture. The parade showcased an array of cultural expressions, from traditional masquerade costumes and local majorette performances to bikers and bands, drawing together a wide spectrum of the community.

The Dominican community’s presence in St. Croix is not just a cultural showcase but a burgeoning economic force. Dominicans have been instrumental in diversifying the business landscape of the USVI, making significant contributions to sectors such as construction, food and beverage, and beauty, and holding influential positions within the government.

Senator Samuel Carrion, proud of his Puerto Rican and Dominican heritage, highlighted the Dominican community’s integral role in the economic and cultural fabric of the Virgin Islands. “The Virgin Islands is a melting pot, and St. Croix, in particular, is enriched by the diversity of Caribbean cultures and beyond,” he observed. The senator eloquently traced the historical ties and migrations between the Virgin Islands and the Dominican Republic, underscoring the interconnectedness and shared heritage that bind these communities together.

“The celebration of Dominican Independence Day here is a vibrant affirmation of our shared Caribbean identity, showcasing the ways in which Dominican traditions and contributions have become woven into the fabric of Virgin Islander society,” Carrion added, acknowledging the hardworking Dominican entrepreneurs and community members who enrich the islands’ social and economic landscape.

Bion Lorenzo, President of the DR Independence Celebration Committee, spoke to the growing influence of the Dominican community, not only in business but also in the fabric of family and societal integration within the USVI. He projected a future where the voices of Virgin Islanders with Dominican ancestry will increasingly resonate in the territory’s democratic processes.

Senator Kenneth Gittens expressed his admiration and support for the Dominican community, noting their vital contribution to the cultural and economic vitality of the Virgin Islands. “As we celebrate the rich tapestry of cultures that make up our community, the Dominican Republic’s independence anniversary is a joyous occasion that underscores our collective heritage and the bonds of friendship and unity that we cherish,” Gittens remarked, looking forward to celebrating VI-PR Friendship Day later in the year with the same spirit of inclusivity and community.

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Na’Zirah Armstrong Triumphs as 2023-2024 Miss St. Croix in Dazzling Pageant Display



The St. Croix Festival Queen Pageant concluded on Thursday night with a stunning victory for Na’Zirah Armstrong, who was crowned Miss St. Croix for 2023-2024. Demonstrating exceptional poise and grace, Armstrong emerged as the frontrunner in a field of highly talented contestants, ultimately clinching the title.

This event, building on the excitement of the junior royalty crowning earlier in the week, featured four aspiring queens. Each contestant displayed remarkable elegance, skill, and dedication in their pursuit of the crown.

The pageant commenced with a pre-event interview at Government House and progressed to the eagerly anticipated swimsuit round. The segment showcased diverse styles: Tyler Valmont donned a striking pink bejeweled monokini, Chantelle Esprit shone in a purple and teal bedazzled suit, Armstrong impressed with her blue cutout swimsuit adorned with a shimmering geometric pattern, and Alayah Phipps presented a sophisticated monochrome purple suit with sparkling diamanté details.

The ambassadorial platform speeches were a highlight, with contestants delving into the rich cultural heritage of the territory. Valmont, in a conch shell pink attire with VI madras highlights, addressed the importance of preserving heritage amidst gentrification. Esprit, wearing a sophisticated purple dress, proposed enhancing St. Croix’s appeal through local cuisine and cultural activities.

Armstrong, elegantly attired in a red dress with madras trim, passionately spoke about fostering cultural awareness and artistic involvement among adolescents. Phipps, in a white and madras-trimmed dress, focused on educational reforms and youth engagement in cultural preservation.

In addition to the cultural wear, talent, and evening wear segments, the event was graced by appearances from the newly crowned St. Croix Festival Duke & Duchess. The contestants faced an on-stage Q&A session, where Valmont reflected on advice for her younger self, Esprit tackled the issue of domestic violence prevention, Armstrong emphasized the uniqueness of St. Croix’s culture, and Phipps advocated for promoting cultural events.

The competition culminated in the crowning moment, with Shantalle Espirit taking fourth place, Tyler Valmont achieving third, Alayah Phipps as the first runner-up, and Na’Zirah Armstrong being adorned with the Miss St. Croix 2023-2024 crown, marking a memorable end to a night filled with pageantry and cultural celebration.

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St. Croix’s 2023-2024 Calypso Monarch Finals Rescheduled for New Year’s Day at Island Center



The esteemed St. Croix Calypsonians United has recently revealed a rescheduled date for the much-anticipated 2023-2024 Calypso Monarch Finals. Originally slated for December 27 at Festival Village, the event faced postponement due to unresolved discussions with participating calypsonians. This led to its initial cancellation by the Division of Festivals. However, following constructive dialogues, January 1 has been confirmed as the new date for this cultural extravaganza.

The Island Center for the Performing Arts, a venue celebrated for its commitment to the arts, will now host the finals. The event is scheduled to commence at 8:00 p.m., featuring an array of nine talented calypsonians. They will compete for the prestigious title, challenging the current reigning Queen Emogene “Blakness” Creese in a musical battle of wit and rhythm.

Event organizer Dean Baptiste, after extensive negotiations with the Division of Festivals, successfully advocated for a venue change. He expressed his enthusiasm about the new arrangements, emphasizing the importance of community support in realizing this event. “Despite facing some challenges, we are excited to present the Calypso Monarch Finals on the first day of the new year,” Baptiste stated. “We are grateful for the unwavering support of the St. Croix community and are committed to delivering an unforgettable evening of music and cultural celebration.”

Ciga Promotions, a key sponsor of the event, has been commended for their vital role in ensuring the continuity of this year’s competition. Their support underscores the importance of preserving cultural traditions and fostering artistic expression within the community.

In conclusion, St. Croix Calypsonians United eagerly anticipates hosting the community at the Island Center for the Performing Arts. January 1, 2024, marks a significant date, promising an evening filled with exceptional performances and the crowning of the next Calypso Monarch. This event is not only a celebration of music but also a testament to the vibrant cultural heritage of St. Croix.

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