Enjoy the Sights, Sounds & Shops of the Season
It’s fruit-filled sweetbreads fresh from the oven rather than chestnuts roasting on an open fire that are a sure sign of the holidays in the Virgin Islands. If you’re looking for the perfect way to get into the seasonal spirit, plus sample some of the island’s festive traditions, head to Charlotte Amalie on Friday, December 16, for Miracle on Main Street. This annual event features the downtown area lit up in tropical Christmas decorations, Yuletide carols played by steel pan bands, shops full of last minute presents and much more.
Don’t Wait Until After Dark
Miracle on Main Street festivities heat up after the sun goes down, but you can beat the crowds and get a good parking spot by coming into town early.
“We’ll have vendors set up in Emancipation Garden by 9 a.m.,” says Joe Aubain, executive director of the host St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce. “These vendors will be selling local foods, local produce and arts and crafts. In fact, it won’t be too long after 9 a.m. that the Garden will be filled with vendors, who will stay right on through the day.”
Emancipation Garden is located behind Vendor’s Plaza on the Waterfront, in front of the Grand Galleria, next to the Post Office and adjacent to Fort Christian. Several trees, trimmed with ornaments handmade by the island’s school children, keep the park cool during the day and several benches make good rest spots.
The Governor’s Children’s Christmas Party kicks off in Emancipation Garden at 4:30 p.m., bringing with it a joyous bustle. Governor Kenneth Mapp and Santa join forces to hand out presents to kids donated by several local businesses and community groups.
By 6 p.m., the streets of Charlotte Amalie will be alive with music.
“We have nine musical groups this year. Four of these are headliners and include Spectrum Band in Palm Passage, Encore Band in Storetvaer Gade and Milo and the Kings at Raddets Gade. The rest are school groups, including the VI Superior Court Rising Stars Youth Steel Orchestra,” says Aubain.
The mix of tunes, from reggae, soca, Ole Skool, Zouk and Top 40 to traditional Carols, makes for a really a toe tapping hand clapping experience.
Over a dozen yachts will deck their hulls with lights, decorations and costumed crew and set sail in the event’s Lighted Boat Parade. To see the show, walk one block south from Main Street to the Charlotte Amalie Waterfront and stand anywhere between the Coast Guard Dock to Tortola Wharf. The fleet of participating yachts makes three passes of the Waterfront so everyone can see. Many yacht crews sing carols. Plus, on the third pass, most crews throw candy to the spectators watching ashore, a definite thrill for kids.
“There will be a wide variety of yachts, everything from a 17-foot plastic hull motor boat to the 54-foot day-sail pirate ship, Blackbeard’s Revenge,” says Erik Ackerson, former executive director of the Virgin Islands Charteryacht League, who has headed up the Lighted Boat Parade for the past dozen-plus years. “A new entry this year is from the Marine and Environmental Science Program at the University of the Virgin Islands. The Parade is all about involvement in our community and sharing the holiday spirit.”
Decorated yachts vie for nearly $1000 in cash prizes. Judging criteria includes originality, best theme and most creative use of lights. The awards presentation takes place at Tickles Restaurant, at the Crown Bay Marina, where there will be a live band, entertainment and food and drink for sale.
Shop & Sup
Dozens of shops and restaurants in downtown Charlotte Amalie stay open late during Miracle on Main Street.
Gemstones, jewelry, perfume, fine art and electronics are some of the gifts you can cross off your list thanks to wares available in Main Street shops.
“We plan to offer several specials during the event,” says Gautam Daswani, president of Downtown Revitalization Inc and owner of the Royal Caribbean stores, which sells items such as brand name cameras, portable speakers and wrist watches.
Miracle on Main Street is a great opportunity to check some local watering holes and restaurants of which there are many, according to Ruth Prager, owner of Gallery St. Thomas, in Palm Passage, which will host a new art show, ‘A Miracle in Metal and Paint, featuring the work of metal smith Elizabeth Pfordresher-LaPlace and abstract artist Tracy Monsanto. “Shopping and eating go hand in hand.”
This is certainly true, especially at Christmastime in the tropics and at St. Thomas’ Miracle on Main Street!