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The first St. Thomas Carnival took place in 1912, when the island was part of the Danish West Indies. The festivities included traditions that continue today, including masquerade bands, parades and carnival queens. A second carnival was held in 1914, but it would be another 38 years before St. Thomas hosted another one. In 1952, the carnival tradition was reintroduced by Ron de Lugo, USVI’s first and longest-serving delegate to the U.S. Congress. Since then, St. Thomas has transformed into a whirlwind of colors, music and revelry every April for carnival.

The first St. Thomas carnival took place in 1912, when the island was part of the Danish West Indies. The festivities included traditions that continue today, including masquerade bands, parades and carnival queens. A second carnival was held in 1914, but it would be another 38 years before St. Thomas hosted another one. In 1952, the carnival tradition was reintroduced by Ron de Lugo, USVI’s first and longest-serving delegate to the U.S. Congress. Since then, St. Thomas has transformed into a whirlwind of colors, music and revelry every April for carnival.

PRINCE, PRINCESS & QUEEN SHOWS

The 72nd-annual celebration starts with the Prince and Princess Show, a showcase of young talent that crowns the best contestant. The Queen Show, which awards the coveted title of St. Thomas Carnival Queen, follows. Young women train for months to represent Thomian culture with interviews, speeches, talent performances and cultural dress. The selection of carnival royalty, who act as ambassadors during carnival events, sets the tone for the season.

CARNIVAL VILLAGE & FOOD FAIR

The heart of St. Thomas Carnival lies in the Carnival Village, which is the headquarters for free reggae, soca, quelbe, Latin fusion and calypso concerts, as well as the Food Fair and local vendors. Serving up authentic island fare like fried fish, callaloo stew and coconut tarts, the Food Fair is a highly anticipated carnival event. Wander through aisles of brightly colored booths and sample locally made pates, tamarind stew and johnny cakes. Or browse artisan crafts like clothes made with the vivid patterns of madras fabric, bird feeders crafted from coconut shells, handmade dolls, jewelry and art. Nearby Kidsville offers carnival rides and games.

PAN-O-RAMA

An explosion of thundering percussion is the hallmark of Pan-O-Rama, featuring steel pan bands competing for prizes. The bands come from throughout the USVI and showcase musicians of all ages. Expect nonstop music, performances by traditional dance troupes and plenty of good times.

J’OUVERT

Prepare to dance through St. Thomas’ streets at the crack of dawn during one of the region’s best J’ouvert parties. Dancers are splashed with water, paint or mud as they sway to the soca and reggae music blaring from trucks along the route to the St. Thomas waterfront. The party starts during the early morning hours (around 2 a.m.) and lasts all day as carnival-goers dance in the road and attend after-parties called fetes. Although it starts early, you can join in St. Thomas’ J’ouvert at any time during the day, taking part in the joyous celebration of life and freedom.

PARADES

The adult and children’s parades draw huge crowds with their elaborate costumes, choreographed dances, fanciful floats and lots of soca, reggae and calypso music pumping through the streets. The two-mile parade route winds along Main Street to Lionel Robert Stadium, with small and large bands of revellers dancing in feathers, beads and rhinestones. The parades last seven to eight hours as they slowly march through the sun-drenched streets, so be sure to pace yourself and hydrate.

Check out more USVI carnivals and festivals.

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