A trip to the US Virgin Islands wouldn’t be complete without catching a glimpse of the Mocko Jumbies – mythical African characters that roam spookily along the streets on stilts, dressed in billowing colourful skirts – at one of the islands’ famous ‘JumpUp’ celebrations in Christiansted. You can see them four times a year, in February, April, July and November, when they form the climax of the party, along with the marching bands, live street music and fantastic street market offering mouth watering Caribbean style food, drink and crafts. The capital of St Croix comes alive with the festivities: musicians and merchants vie for attention as the delicious scents of the tantalizing goodies offered by the local restaurants and bars distract revellers even from the sounds of the local calypso bands. Calypso music developed during the 19th century with its roots in Trinidad’s Carnival, evolving from the various styles of Carnival music, including ribald songs, traditional drumming and stick-fighting songs, first sung in French Creole and later in English. Dance to it in the streets or sit back and enjoy, with the help of a Calypso Daiquiri created with Cruzan Rum.
Elsewhere in the US Virgin Islands, experience the sounds of the St John Blues Festival which takes place every spring at venues throughout the town including Island Blues and Shipwreck Landing in Coral Bay and Mongoose Junction Courtyard and Wharfside Village in Cruz Bay. A typical line-up includes such talented international blues artists as Janiva Magness, Zac Harmon and Trampled Under Foot. The event is sponsored by local musician Steve Simon.
If you are a sports enthusiast, take note that the annual Paradise Jam held in St Thomas is a week-long basketball tournament that represents a competitive early-season warm up for some of the nation’s top up-and-coming collegiate stars. This island also provides the venue for the St Thomas International Rolex Regatta, one of the world’s best competitive yacht races based at the St Thomas Yacht Club and with its principal social events hosted by the swanky Ritz-Carlton St Thomas. For budding skippers, the Scotiabank Caribbean International Optimist Regatta is tailored to suit the 8-15 year age group in three days of events held in Cowpet Bay, St Thomas. The event is brought to a close with a hearty barbecue brunch on the beach, a pizza party and a Caribbean night featuring a firewalker and limbo dancers.
November is the month of the Pirate Festival in St Thomas, with superb family entertainment and activities. A full scale reenactment takes place at Lindberg Bay, to set the scene. The programme is fun-packed and includes sword fighting, steel pan music, treasure hunts and sandcastle building contests, with a grand finale which is the Buccaneer’s Barbecue Cook-off. In the evening you will be expected to wear pirate costume to attend the Pirate’s Ball, where the main attraction will be the crowning of the ‘Queen of the Pirate Wenches’.
Throughout December you will find events which form part of the St Croix Christmas Festival including the Old Time Night Parade in Christiansted and the post-Christmas donkey races. Among the numerous events at the St Croix Crucian Christmas Festival, don't miss the pageant to choose not only the festival queen, but also the festival prince, princess and duchess! If you didn’t get picked, how about consoling yourself with local dishes such as roast pork and crab and rice, washed down nicely with ginger beer and guavaberry rum? All in all a unique experience and a great opportunity to immerse yourself in the history and culture of these fascinating islands.