St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands, celebrates Independence Day with tropical flair.
Writer Anna Spiegel
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Red, White, & Tropical Hues
On the Caribbean island of St. John, the Fourth of July brings more colors than red, white, and blue. Even a troupe of American Indians boasts resplendent purple feathers.
Count on arriving early for a spot in the shade, but don’t plan on remaining there. Observers frequently become participants, dancing with the parade or tramping behind the Virgin Island Pale Ale float for free brews.
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A U.S. territory in the Virgin Islands since 1917, St. John is a unique fusion of American and Caribbean traditions.
On July 3, Emancipation Day commemorates the freeing of slaves by the island’s Danish colonizers in 1848. The following day, America’s Declaration of Independence is celebrated.
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Choose Your Adventure
The events carry the lively spirit of Carnaval, a rush of activities as eclectic as the island’s population.
The celebration begins days before at the rainbow of stalls in Festival Village in Cruz Bay, St. John’s main town. It offers concerts, crafts, and local food.
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Wise tourists pick a stand crowded with locals and fetch a dinner of Caribbean barbecue. Think of it as the Caribbean version of a July 4th feast.
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Events for All
This is the epicenter of nightly activity, drawing musical talents from throughout the Caribbean.
Evening brings the mechanical whirl of carnival rides from the adjacent Children’s Festival, and families meander between the two venues.
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Festival nights end in the wee hours, followed by quiet days of relaxation during Emancipation Week.
The best way to unwind is on a long swath of white sand. The island is two-thirds national park, with a plethora of pristine beaches.
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Come July 4, you don’t want to miss the parade, which begins around noon.
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Something Old, Something New
Some parts of the show look very familiar. A troupe of young girls marches down the street in star-spangled dresses, silver batons twirling. This could be anywhere in America on July 4th, but suddenly a tribe of Zulu warriors moves through the crowd with spears.
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Star Spangled Night
The celebration climaxes with fireworks over the Caribbean Sea. You can watch the display from Festival Village, or at a candlelit table on the balcony of one of the island’s finest restaurants.
Both Paradiso Restaurant (340/693-8899) and Zozo’s (340/693-9200 or zozos.net) offer balcony views of Fourth fireworks and sumptuous Italian fare.