Anticipation has reached its peak as one of the largest celebrations in the Caribbean is in season. The annual St. Thomas Carnival launches on April 11th and unfolds into a three week feast for the senses. Rated among the top carnivals of the world by the likes of Forbes and USA Today, the festival receives thousands of locals and travelers alike. Although the Virgin Islands host three carnivals per year—one on each of the three main islands—St. Thomas is internationally known for being the most extravagant.
U.S.Virgin Islands' capital, Charlotte Amalie, hosts the majority of the festivities in the spacious Lionel Roberts Stadium which holds over 9,000 spectators. Once the carnival royalty is chosen, the ongoing bash is explosive with local delicacies, games, rides and live music that resounds into the late hours of the night.
The beat of the entire spectacle is a mixture of traditional and new sounds from local and international artists glued together by West African influences. Calypso, the official sound of the Carnival, originated in the islands of Trinidad and Tobago. Infusing instruments like trumpet, conga and guitar, the melody is deeply embedded in the Caribbean celebration. The Calypso Revue, on April 24th, displays the best of calypsonian talent in a full night of entertaining competition. In the weeks leading up to the event, over one hundred local performers compete for the chance to share the stage with the international finalists. Due to the growing popularity of Soca, or Soul Calypso, this high-energy amusement preferred by the younger audience is also included in this year's lineup.
At the heart of the carnival is the Village where an array of local foods and drinks are prepared and shared. Curious about what other islands have to offer? The Village includes foods from several of the surrounding Caribbean islands including Dominica, Trinidad and Puerto Rico. Foods like lobster, johnny cakes and tamarind stew fill the streets while stunning local paintings and sculptures make up the vibrant, cultural background. For the Village's ceremonial opening on April 26th, the carnival royalty and local political figures are joined by a chosen honorary local business or group to cut the ropes for the community.
As the St. Thomas carnival continues to wind up, April 29th marks one of the most popular events, the J'ouvert. Starting at 12:30 A.M., the celebration warms up until 4:00A.M., when everyone cuts loose and celebrates freely on the streets with parades and live music. The full blown street party continues throughout the day while fans only pull away to touch up their costumes and decorations.
The famous Adult's Parade, noted by the Discovery Channel in its Fantastic Festivals of the World series, is the grand finale to the carnival. The first day of May marks the closing of the three week festival for the islanders as they parade the streets in fascinating, elaborate costumes. The popular Mocko Jumbie figure stands on stilts to scare away evil spirits while 50-piece steel drum bands make their way through the capital's streets.
Although the carnival on St. Thomas is an intense, vibrant event, no one is excluded. Entertainment is available for spectators of all ages. Children have their own royalty competition, music and art competition, carnival rides, and a Children's parade on April 30th.
For more information, visit http://www.vicarnival.com/