A Caribbean Fourth

St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands, celebrates Independence Day with tropical flair.

caribbean-fourth-parade-float

Howard L. Puckett

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.

caribbean-fourth-parade-drummers

Howard L. Puckett

Multi-Cultural Affair

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.

caribbean-fourth-festival-village

Howard L. Puckett

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.

caribbean-fourth-caribbean-barbecue

Howard L. Puckett

Freedom Fare

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.

caribbean-fourth-little-girl-childrens-festival

Howard L. Puckett

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.

caribbean-fourth-island-beaches

Quiet Time

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.

caribbean-fourth-boy-in-parade

Howard L. Puckett

Sight Seeing

Come July 4, you don’t want to miss the parade, which begins around noon.

caribbean-fourth-parade-baton-twirlers

Howard L. Puckett

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.

caribbean-fourth-fireworks

Howard L. Puckett

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.

caribbean-fourth-caneel-bay

Rest Easy

One of the best places to stay is Caneel Bay (340/776-6111 or caneelbay.com), a former Rockefeller property now managed by the luxurious Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, in the Virgin Islands National Park.
 

caribbean-fourth-hula-girl-contact-detail

Howard L. Puckett

Join the Celebration

For information on joining the celebration, or making your own, contact the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism (1-800-372-8784 or usvitourism.vi).

Published July/August 2009

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http://www.coastalliving.com/travel/caribbean-fourth-of-july-celebration-00400000049033/