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The St. John Celebration dates back to when the island was ruled by Denmark and residents paraded through the streets to celebrate Emancipation Day, which commemorates the abolishment of slavery in the former Danish West Indies on July 3, 1848. Today, St. John Celebration events have expanded from one day to nearly a week full of colorful celebrations. 

Bring your dancing shoes and plan to join in the jubilant St. John Celebration. Here are some highlights you won’t want to miss.

Carnival Village

The headquarters for all festivities is the Carnival Village, typically located in the Cruz Bay parking lot. The Village is a bustling collection of booths featuring tasty food, drinks, and arts and crafts from communities throughout the Caribbean. The booths are open all day and into the early-morning hours. You’ll see vendors dressed in vibrant, plaid madras patterns and other traditional clothing. Carnival rides and games surround the booths, creating a lively atmosphere. A massive stage where musicians perform each night is a focal point of the Carnival Village.


The steel pan is the primary instrument used to celebrate carnival, with bands gathering to play joyful tunes in an epic competition. This popular event pits the island’s best groups against each other with a rousing setlist of reggae, soca, R&B and pop hits.

Food Fair

The heart of any Caribbean celebration is food, and the Food Fair kicks it up a notch with an endless array of tempting traditional dishes and delicacies. Sample local eats like pates, fried fish, tamarind stew, curried goat, stewed conch, callaloo stew and mango tarts. Drinks that include mauby and passionfruit juice are also sold at the Food Fair.


A French term meaning “daybreak,” J’ouvert takes place in the wee hours of Parade Day. Before the sun rises, carnival revelers paint their bodies with mud, oil or paint and dance in the street as a symbol of liberation from the constraints of the past.

4th of July Parade & Fireworks

The highlight of the St. John Celebration is the 4th of July Parade, which draws thousands of onlookers each year. The parade showcases steel pan bands and vividly costumed dance troupes decked in feathers, sequins and glittery outfits. Every troupe features a theme that inspires their costumes and dances. Troupes can be as small as a dozen, or as large as 400, members. The Parade lasts all day and comes to a close with a dazzling fireworks display over the beautiful Cruz Bay harbor.

Check out other USVI carnivals and festivals.

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