HARLEM, NEW YORK — Thousands were in attendance on Sunday afternoon for the 20th annual Caribbean Cultural Festival in Harlem, New York, an event sponsored in part by the USVI Dept. of Tourism and featured a long list of artists, among them top USVI acts. Organized by Virgin Islands United, the event has served as a massive gathering of Virgin Islanders and other Caribbean nationalities during the Labor Day Weekend.
But no other island was represented in numbers like the U.S. Virgin Islands. The territory’s flags outnumbered the others and the responses when artists called on the “VI Massive” to identify were heard loud and clear.
It was the perfect opportunity for the Dept. of Tourism to promote the territory, and D.O.T. Commissioner Joseph Boschulte did just that when he took to the stage, highlighting everything from the territory’s recovery to the upcoming Crucian Christmas Festival, all in an effort to urge the diaspora to return home for vacation.
“The USVI is back in business. We’re back promoting strong. We’d love to see all our people when you go to work, when you go around, mention to people that the USVI is the place to have their vacation,” Mr. Boschulte said. “And if you haven’t been home in a number of years, book and trip, bring your people back — our culture has to keep going. Come in for two, three days — a week — but the kids got to know the VI.”
The commissioner also promoted D.O.T.’s new arm, called Division of Festivals, which is responsible for the execution of the territory’s carnival and festivals. “You’re going to see a lot of information; we’re going to get the acts out so people know, so you could plan your trips around festival,” the commissioner said.
Also present at the event were members of Governor Albert Bryan’s cabinet, including Deputy Chief of Staff Kevin Rodriquez and St. Thomas/Water Island Administrator Avery Lewis.
VI acts who performed included Caribbean Queen, Nikki Smith, Rudy Live, Adam O., and the Spectrum Band, which closed off the event with a lively performance, singing hits such as “Ah Love Me Wifey”, Pressure Busspipe’s “Do It and Done”, and other Soca hits.
The Caribbean Cultural Festival was part of the Department of Tourism’s weekend-long presence in New York to market the USVI. VI artist Mic Love, whose song “VI to the Bone” has been chosen as the anthem to promote the territory, performed on Fox’s “Good Day New York” on Friday. There, Dept. of Tourism Communications Director Alani Henneman Todman did an exceptional job promoting the islands. Later that night, a VI Ambassadors event at the Intercontinental Hotel in Manhattan saw the gathering of Virgin Islanders, including British Virgin Islands nationals, to celebrate the territory. There, too, D.O.T. officials took the opportunity to promote that the USVI, though not fully recovered, was open for business with hotels open and more coming online by the end of the year or early 2020.
“You’re going to see a difference in the USVI promotions. We’re going to be featuring all of us — our people, our culture and our food. So we need you to keep promoting the Virgin Islands because without you, our [efforts] are going to be much more difficult,” Mr. Boschulte said.