St. John Festival
St. John Festival is held annually from late May to early July. It is a time of cultural expression and appreciation, acknowledgement of history, and all around fun and revelry for both residents and guests. As the St. John counterpart to Carnival on St. Thomas and St. Croix, St. John Festival features food fairs, pageants, boat races, parades, and more. Each year has a different theme.
Festival Village is one of several highlights during Festival. It is seven nights of musical performances alongside booths selling alcoholic drinks and local food dishes. The Festival and Cultural Organization of St. John releases the musical line up just before Festival Village is scheduled to open. Performers include local St. John bands and popular calypso/soca musicians from throughout the Caribbean. A Children’s Village is also held by the Rotary Club of St. John. Located in the National Park, Children’s Village features games and prizes from 6PM to 9PM. Another highlight is J’ouvert (pronounced JOO-VEYH), a street party that begins late in the night and lasts until a few hours after sunrise on the fourth.
The event following J’ouvert is always the 4th of July parade, which features colorful troupes, creative floats, wonderful music, and amazing performances. The end of St. John Festival is marked by fireworks display on the night of 4th of July at nine pm.
Medical care on St. John is managed by the Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center, a modern facility on the mid-island Route 10 in the Grunwald section of the St. John “country” overlooking Cruz Bay and St. Thomas.
The facility is equipped with up-to-date technology and offers services such women‘s health care, pre- and post-natal care, adult medicine, pediatrics, radiology, ophthalmology, laboratory and nutrition counseling. The facility also provides 24-hour emergency care and outpatient support Monday through Friday. Serious injuries, obstetric deliveries, and second opinions are managed by the Roy L. Schneider Regional Medical Center on St. Thomas via an ambulance boat.
Cruz Bay and Coral Bay
There are two main towns on St. John–Cruz Bay and Coral Bay. Cruz Bay is considered the urban West side of St. John. It is the location of the ferry dock, the car barge, several shopping centers, and two schools. Large events like Festival and concerts are usually held there.
Coral Bay is the rural East side of the island. There are several restaurants and bars, but it is mostly a residential area. It is not uncommon to see herds of goat and groups of travelling donkeys crossing the road, so be careful while driving!
The two towns are connected by Centerline Road, a road spanning the west and east side of the island, and North Shore Road, an offshoot of Centerline that leads to the beaches. The areas between the towns are considered “country”.
Emergency Medical Services
There are several agencies that promote safety throughout the island in times of disaster and emergency. The main agency is the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA). Operated by professional planners, communications specialists, logicians, operations managers and support personnel, VITEMA ensures the Territory’s ability to prepare for and recover from large and small disasters through extensive planning for potential hazards, issuing alerts on incoming storms and ongoing emergencies, and providing training and exercise activities such as the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program.
Emergencies on St. John are often addressed by St. John Rescue, an all volunteer organization, which is chartered to provide emergency rescue and medical support services to EMS, VI Police, VI Fire department, National Park Service, United States Coast Guard, VITEMA, FEMA, and health clinic personnel. All responding St. John Rescue members are Certified Emergency First Responders at minimum with additional training in Marine Safety and Rescue, rappelling, and vehicle extrication. St. John Rescue also provides Community Based CPR/AED programs for a small fee.
There is one police station on St. John, which is located in Cruz Bay. There are also two fire stations, one in Cruz Bay, and one in Coral Bay. All are staffed with dedicated and fully trained emergency responders.
Electricity and potable water are produced by the V.I. Water and Power Authority (WAPA). WAPA distributes electricity and potable water to approximately 55,000 electrical customers and 13,000 potable water customers throughout the Virgin Islands. St. John receives potable water by pipeline from St. Thomas to a large storage tank and then via tanker trucks to individual houses. There is a small network of pipes which brings water to homes and businesses in Cruz Bay.
WAPA brings electrical service through underground cable from St. Thomas to users on St. John. It is normal for the power to go out briefly several times each month. WAPA also installs and maintains streetlights in the territory. In order to meet the power demands of the territory, WAPA periodically redirects the flow of electricity to different areas when necessary. WAPA usually alerts the community before planned outages. Power is always disconnected to all shortly before a hurricane makes landfall, and is restored after the storm passes and depending on the intensity of the storm, after inspection of lines has been completed.
Local Politics and the Delegate to Congress
The Virgin Islands is semi-autonomous, with an elected governor, four appointed island administrators (two for St. Croix) and a fifteen member Legislature comprised of seven senators from the St. Croix district, seven from the St. Thomas/St. John district, and one at-large senator who must reside on St. John. Registered voters vote for these officials every two years. We are currently on our 31st Legislature, which contains senators from three political groups: the Democratic Party of the Virgin Islands, the Independent Citizens Movement, and some independent representatives. Senate hearings for the 31st Legislature are live streamed and aired on the LEGIT VI TV channel.
Though she may not vote on the floor in the House of Representatives, our elected Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett can vote in committee. Her St. John office hours are every Tuesday from 10:30AM to 3:30PM, in the St. John Administrator Office at the Battery, an old Danish fort at the entrance to Cruz Bay harbor. Virgin Islanders may not vote for the president, but they can gain voting rights after becoming a resident of one of the 50 states. Conversely, US citizens who become residents of the Virgin Islands lose their voting rights. The court case challenging this is pending a decision.
Residents who want cable television can choose between Innovative and Dish. Innovative provides a variety of telecommunication services, including cable; high speed internet, landlines, and a 3G network for cell phones. Like its stateside counterpart, Dish offers several different TV packages; some of which feature the Hopper, the familiar HD DVR system Dish introduced in 2012. Local programming includes LEGIT TV (Local senate hearings), and CBS TV2.
Shopping and Grocery Stores
St. John offers many shopping opportunities for locals and tourists alike. A small market is sometimes set up in Franklin Powell Park right at the end of the ferry dock. Wares include fresh local fruit, beautiful jewelry, tropical style dresses and shirts, and more.
Also in close vicinity of the ferry, there is Wharfside Village. Though primarily visited for its restaurants and bars, it does have some jewelry and clothing stores. Stores include Now & Zen, Kro- Gu, Verace, and V.I.be Collection.
Another popular shopping plaza is St. John Properties’ neighbor, Mongoose Junction. It offers an abundance of clothing, local art, restaurants, and more. Stores include Made in St. John, Little Switzerland, Bamboula, R&I Patton, Bajo el Sol, Portico, and Friends of the National Park Store. We have a lovely store in our building called Island to Island Resort Ware.
If they do not want to make a trip to St. Thomas, residents of St. John do the bulk of their shopping in The Lumberyard and The Marketplace. The Lumberyard features a barbershop, a hair salon, an appliance store, a hair and cosmetics store, and more. The Marketplace is located nearby the car barge, and it houses stores and services such as Chelsea Drug Store, Boost Mobile, DHL, and more. On the bottom floor, you will find Starfish Market, the largest grocery store on St. John. In Coral Bay, you will find the convenience stores Love City Mart, and Calabash Market.
Entities such as the Island Green Living Association (IGLA) and the Virgin Islands Waste Management Association (VIWMA) highly encourage St. John residents to recycle. There are several bins for aluminum cans located across the island. VIWMA released a document listing recyclable items and their appropriate location:
Blankets and towels – Animal Care Center, Cruz Bay Canine Cats & Critters
Books (In good condition) – Public Library
Packing material (packing peanuts, bubble wrap, foam, wrapping paper, large boxes in good condition) – Marketplace
There are several cell phone carriers to choose from while living on St. John. Some of the more popular options are Innovative, AT&T, Sprint, and Boost Mobile. Service is available in most areas on St. John. Depending on your carrier, it is spotty around North Shore Road (around the beaches), and throughout Coral Bay. While in Coral Bay, it is recommended that you avoid using your cell phone, for you run the risk of picking up service from the BVI (usually indicated by the abbreviation LIME, appearing on your screen), and it can be very pricey!