What began as a small gift of normalcy to the community of the US Virgin Islands has blossomed into an international celebration that’s placed all eyes on the small Caribbean territory.
After successfully launching “Home Wuk” a virtual dance party featuring the popular DJ Avalanche, Ian Turnbull, the territory's Director of the Division of Festivals, decided to keep the fete going and throw a full-blown virtual carnival.
“We’ve had half a million post engagements and a reach of one million people,” says Turnbull about the “Home Wuk." “We’ve recently been getting a lot of texts and interactions from individuals saying they want to come to the Virgin Islands. So for me and the Department of Tourism, the likes are great, but when people start to say ‘Hey, when we come?' that’s conversion and that’s always what we’re looking for.”
The US Virgin Islands was forced to cancel its 2020 St. Thomas Carnival, which was scheduled for April 3 to May 4, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The next slate of carnival activities includes everything from replays of last year’s parades to Zumba classes to virtual village performances from some of the country’s biggest musical artists. But perhaps the most ambitious event of them all is the "Jou'Virtual", a celebration similar to the annual J'ouvert and will start at 4am on Thursday, April 30 and feature five DJs and a performance from the legendary Legacy Band via Zoom Live.
“Most people are home, most people are working from home so the event goes from four am to eight am,” says Turnbull. “So that’s just enough time for you to go and brush your teeth real quick and go on the couch to do your actual work.”
All of USVI’s virtual carnival events will be streaming on the Division of Festival’s Facebook page.
Though the virtual carnival is expected to bring a host of attention and engagement from all over the globe, it will be those watching throughout the Caribbean that may have the biggest impact. Countries such as Barbados, Anguilla, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Jamaica and the Bahamas have either canceled or postponed their 2020 carnivals. The prospect of perhaps throwing a virtual carnival could be a solution.
”It feels like we’re on the pulse of what’s going to be the next thing," says Turnbull. "In a few years, we know, everyone is probably going to be streaming their concerts and parades.”