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St. Patty's Day: St. Croix-style

March 16, 2015

St. Croix, USVI, has a parade for everything. There is the usual Christmas parade, Three Kings Day parade, and Mardi Gras parade. There are children's parades, adult parades, Dominican Republic Independence Day parades, boat parades, and even dog parades on the boardwalk in Christiansted. But nothing on island compares to the celebration of St. Patrick's day.


A family event

When I see pictures on Facebook of the St. Patty's Day parades attended by my Stateside friends, they all look so normal. Orderly band members play predictable songs. Majorettes perform choreographed routines, and then march on to the next location and do it again. Pre-approved, tasteful floats pepper the streets lined with people who wave and clap accordingly. My Crucian friends would probably get themselves arrested were they to attend a Stateside St. Patty's Day parade. The country just isn't ready for island-style partying.

On St. Croix, the fun starts as soon as people wake up. Bars open at 10:00 a.m., but the convenience stores and gas stations sell the island-distilled Crucian rum and beer at all hours. The parade follows a pre-determined route, but the rest of it is pretty much impromptu. Floats of bands with ear-splitting music drowning out all conversation for a square block pass by partiers who feel like dancing. So they hop on the float (they certainly know at least one person playing in the band) and join the fun. A dozen or so people follow, then hop off a few blocks later when the band requests more refreshments.


Partiers in the streets

A small boy standing on the street with his mother decides that listening to the marching band just isn't his style, so he bee bops his 3-year old self out into the middle of the band and high steps along with them. Rather than an anxious parent (or policeman) yanking him back to his proper place on the sidelines, the band members move aside and give him some room to perform his own bouncing routine for a block or so before he gets tired and wanders back to the sidewalk where mom is waiting.


Shirts are optional.

The girls twirling batons and flags and performing their routines just can't help but put their own island style into it. These girls have rhythm and style that they aren't afraid to show off. They may all be twirling at the same rate, but they are dancing to their own internal drummer.

We had friends from North Carolina whose visit overlapped the St. Patty's Day parade one year. The first time I realized that this wasn't what Statesiders would consider "normal" was when she said to her husband, "Oh get pictures of this. They are just not going to BELIEVE it back home!"


Apparently, so are pants.

So maybe the supersoakers that people were squirting into the crowds from the floats aren't normally filled with rum in the States, huh? They aren't always on St. Croix, either. Sometimes they have margaritas in them. I'm sure there is some sort of open container law on island. I've never known it to be enforced, but I assume there is one. But even the police get into the spirit for the parade, wearing florescent green "uniform" shirts for the occasion.

For the spectators, shirts are definitely optional. You see more swim suits during the parade than you do on most Stateside beaches. And apparently, if you're wearing a green...whatever that is, pants are optional, too.


Bands everywhere

And the party doesn't end with the parade: it is a full-day (or as long as you can hold out) event. Bands play at outdoor restaurants along the harbor-side boardwalk and the crowds (on land and water) dance to the same songs these bands have been playing for years on this rock. And love it. The boardwalk becomes a dance floor: walking along it is impossible. Bars can't keep up with the volume of customers, so restaurants set up temporary second and third bars more or less on their property. On St. Croix "close" is good enough for pretty much everything. Amateur drinkers are passed out in the sun by noon. Every year at least one person gets carted off the boardwalk on a stretcher. But for the veteran island drinkers (and those of us who don't imbibe), sunset is usually our limit. Crowds drop off quickly, bars close early, and Sunday is one of the slowest days of the year on island. But when the pictures pop up on Facebook Sunday afternoon, we all smile and wonder what our Stateside friends must think of us: the little rock in the Caribbean that thinks it's Irish one day a year. And as the Irish say, "May you live to be 100 years, with one extra year to repent." Rock on.

MONDAY we'll share a little warning about what you "have" to have to go cruising.

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