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V.I. Taxicab Commission Offers Complimentary Shuttle Services Post-J’Ouvert to Combat Drunk Driving

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Keri Hilson at the 2016 St. Thomas Carnival. Photograph by ERNICE GILBERT, V.I. CONSORTIUM

In a proactive move to enhance safety during the festive J’Ouvert 2024, the V.I. Taxicab Commission, in collaboration with the V.I. Police Department, is launching a “Safe Ride Shuttles” service. This service, unveiled on Sunday, is designed to deter drinking and driving by offering free rides to attendees of the annual celebration.

Starting on Thursday, May 2, 2024, just after the J’Ouvert festivities conclude, party-goers will have access to shuttle services in front of the Alexander Farrelly Justice Complex. The shuttles will head east, making multiple stops along the established Safari Bus route. Notable stops include Raphune Hill, Fort Mylner, Tutu Park Mall, Smith Bay, Red Hook, Nazareth, Frydenhoj, Nadir, Bovoni, Bolongo, Frenchman’s Bay, and Haven Sight.

This convenient, voucher-free initiative is part of a broader effort to ensure the well-being of community members during one of the liveliest times of the year. By emphasizing the message, “the life you save may be your own,” the campaign highlights its critical goal: to minimize drunk driving incidents and ensure everyone returns home safely.

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Margaret Sayer Honored at St. John Celebration for Decades of Dedication

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ST. JOHN — On a bright Sunday afternoon, the 2024 St. John Celebration continued with its annual food fair, marking a milestone 70th year of festivities. This year, the celebration honored a special community pillar, Margaret Sayer, for her unwavering volunteer work and contributions since the event’s inception in 1954.

The St. John Celebration, renowned for its vibrant cultural events, includes an array of activities such as pageants, boat races, and the highly anticipated food fair. This year, the Division of Festivals chose to recognize individuals who exemplify the island’s rich cultural heritage. Margaret Sayer, celebrated as the Food Fair Honoree, has been instrumental in the event’s success over the decades, helping to shape the festivities that locals and visitors alike enjoy today​ (CaribMagPlus)​​ (Travel And Tour World)​.

Commissioner Joseph Boschulte of the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism expressed his enthusiasm for this year’s lineup, which began on June 8 with the Pan-O-Rama and will continue throughout the month. The festival aims to showcase the deep cultural history of St. John, culminating in grand parades and a spectacular fireworks display on July 4th​ (The Virgin Islands Consortium)​​ (St. Thomas Source)​.

Director of Festivals Ian Turnbull highlighted the significance of recognizing community figures like Sayer. “Her dedication and efforts have been pivotal in preserving and promoting our cultural traditions,” he noted, underscoring the importance of such acknowledgments in maintaining the festival’s vibrant spirit.

The St. John Celebration not only celebrates the island’s heritage but also honors its people, making it a cornerstone event in the U.S. Virgin Islands’ cultural calendar. This year’s festivities promise to be a colorful and cultural jamboree, reflecting the island’s enduring legacy and community pride.

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Sher’Niah Freeman Crowned at 70th St. John Celebration Queen Pageant

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The 70th St. John Celebration Queen pageant commenced with vibrant competition on Saturday night, featuring contestants J’Naiya Squiabro and Sher’Niah Freeman. Both contestants took the stage in striking silver dresses adorned with fringe, setting the tone for an evening of elegance and talent.

J’Naiya Squiabro, a recent Ivanna Eudora Kean High School graduate and U.S. Army enlistee, introduced herself as “the chosen one.” Meanwhile, Sher’Niah Freeman, a sophomore at the University of the Virgin Islands, declared she embodied “the undeniable essence of a queen.” Their opening speeches, each worth up to 25 points, showcased their confidence and set high expectations for the evening.

The swimwear segment followed, with contestants judged on poise, modeling technique, fit, and stage presence for a total of 50 points. Squiabro dazzled in a sequined white monokini, dubbed “Platinum Jubilee,” accentuated with strategically placed gems. Freeman opted for a blush-colored maillot in crushed velvet, featuring a mesh cutout and deeper pink gems at the waist.

The next segment required the contestants to display their talents while donning “international wear,” scored out of 100 points. Squiabro’s “Welcome to Guatemala” presentation featured a costume inspired by the National Palace of Culture and the Museum of Archaeology, complemented by a hand-painted skirt and a white winged headpiece. She performed the “Dance of the Conquest,” transitioning into a sequined bodice and mesh ruffled skirt for a dynamic dance and drum performance.

Freeman paid tribute to Celia Cruz, the “Queen of Salsa,” with a vibrant yellow-orange ombre duster, orange wig, and gem-encrusted sunglasses. She performed “A Negra Tiene Tumbao” and portrayed the history of Afro-Cubans, donning flowing white garments and a pale blue shimmery dress for the Tumba Francesca dance. Despite wardrobe malfunctions, Freeman closed with a spirited salsa performance in a sequined Cuban flag ball gown.

The evening wear segment, also worth 100 points, saw Squiabro in a royal purple gown with crystal columns and tasseled off-shoulder sleeves. Freeman chose a white column gown with strategically placed sequins and fringe.

During the question and answer segment, worth 25 points, Squiabro proposed opening a clinic for young people’s mental wellbeing, emphasizing gradual emotional openness. Freeman suggested community seminars to educate on mental health warning signs and advocated for mental health classes in schools.

After the personal interview scores were combined with the evening’s performances, the judges deliberated. Amidst the audience’s anticipation, Sher’Niah Freeman was crowned the 2024 St. John Celebration Queen, to the delight of the cheering crowd.

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Tribute to Malvern Gumbs Highlights Carnival Village Opening

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The vibrant Carnival Village was inaugurated on Monday night on St. Thomas, marking a high point in the island’s festive season. This year, the village is named “Malvern’s Melodic Greathouse” in honor of esteemed music educator Malvern Gumbs. The grounds buzzed with energy as attendees explored various food and drink stalls.

During the opening ceremony, Senate President Novelle Francis emphasized the essential role of music in the village, applauding Mr. Gumbs for his invaluable contributions to local culture and music. With a 27-year tenure as a music teacher and numerous accolades, including leading the Spectrum band to nine consecutive road march titles, Mr. Gumbs’ impact on the arts was the focus of the evening. His sister, Merida Gumbs, who spoke at the event, credited their late mother with fostering a love of music in her children.

The festive atmosphere was enhanced by the presence of notable figures such as Lieutenant Governor Tregenza Roach, who praised Mr. Gumbs for his dual role as an educator and musician, noting his “tender age” and significant influence on the Carnival celebrations. Governor Albert Bryan also commented on Mr. Gumbs’s versatility in music, humorously questioning whether anyone else could create a song powerful enough to influence a gubernatorial election.

Expressing his appreciation, Malvern Gumbs warmly addressed the crowd, “I love all of you. Happy Carnival everybody!” following the ribbon-cutting that officially opened the village.

As the night progressed, the village drew large crowds eager to enjoy the local cuisine, purchase souvenirs, and experience a lineup of performances from numerous artists, including the internationally renowned soca artist Machel Montano. The evening’s festivities concluded with a series of electrifying performances that underscored the celebratory spirit of the event.

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