Carnival Time on St. Thomas
It’s FINALLY that time of year again! After a 2-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the community couldn’t be more thrilled to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the St. Thomas Carnival. Carnival is a yearly celebration of Virgin Island culture with a focus on delicious Caribbean cuisine, traditional music and spirited dancing. It is a time for Virgin Islanders to reconnect with family and friends, and celebrate!
The Food of Carnival
The Food Fair is many islanders favorite event and one that we look forward to all year! A ton of local vendors showcase their specialities, so your taste buds are in for all the Caribbean staples that you can eat!
A few of our favorites:
Fungi (pronounced foon-Ji)
The Caribbean version of polenta. Delicious sweet fish is simmered in butter and onions and served alongside fungi- a creamy dumpling style heap of tender slated cornmeal.
An appetizing flatbread made with split peas incorporated into the dough. Roti is stuffed with a curried filling consisting of vegetables, potatoes and meat. Roti comes in many versions: beef, goat, chicken, or just veggies. Sure to please everyone from meat enthusiasts to vegetarians!
A simple fried bread that will satisfy your sweet and salty craving! Johnny cakes can be served as a side or as a treat by itself. Johnny cakes are fluffy & slightly crispy. The key is to fry them in very hot oil so they start to cook immediately and do not absorb too much of the oil.
The Music of Carnival
The musical performances during Carnival highlight the various cultural influences of the Caribbean. If you are a lover of live music, your ears are in for a week-long treat!
A few of our favorites:
The Steel Drum
The most commonly recognized sound of Caribbean music is the steel drum (also known as the steel pan which is believed to originate from Trinidad). Steel drums have been used during festivals throughout the Caribbean since the 1780s. You won’t want to miss ‘Panorama’, held on the last evening of Carnival, where multiple steel drum troupes perform. A local favorite is the Rising Stars Youth Steel Orchestra. Originally started as a summer project in 1981 to help students between the ages of 10 and 18 successfully complete their high school education, it became so successful that it was made into a year round program. The Rising Stars have performed in places as far away as Taiwan and Japan, as well as all over the Caribbean, and have even made appearances in movies such as Weekend at Bernie’s II and on such TV programs as Good Morning America and the Today Show.
Soca music is defined as the “Soul of Calypso“, and has influences of African and East Indian rhythms. It originated in Trinidad and Tobago in the early 1970s, and has evolved and developed throughout the Caribbean since then. A highlight of the 2022 Carnival is a performance by prominent Soca group Kes The Band, known for their unique blend of soulful vocals, calypso inspired melodies, rock riffs and island beats, with hints of reggae.
Reggae music started in Jamaica in the late 1960s and incorporates musical elements of rhythm and blues, jazz, calypso, and traditional African folk rhythms. Offbeat rhythm and a slower paced tempo make Reggae music uniquely recognizable. The 2022 Carnival line-up offers a whole evening of Reggae performances, including the legendary Beres Hammond.
The Dancing of Carnival
If you like to dance, J’ouvert might be the Carnival experience for you. J’ouvert is a contraction of the French words jour ouvert, or dawn/day break, and is the official start of Carnival (typically held at dawn on the Monday preceding Lent). One of the most popular events of Carnival, it is an early morning party as thousands of people dance through the streets behind their favorite bands. Expect paint, bright attire and a party atmosphere.
And there’s so much more to Carnival including children’s and adult parades, boat races, and events throughout the community. Mark your calendars for the next St. Thomas Carnival held in late April/early May, plus the St. John Festival over the 4th of July, and the St. Croix Christmas Carnival held between Christmas and New Years. It’s one of the best ways to experience the true flavor of the VI!
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