Meet the Dynamic Dancers, Some of Our Cutest & Very Talented Residents

The Dynamic Dancers at the Red Hook ferry dock on their way to the States.

The Dynamic Dancers at the Red Hook ferry dock on their way to the States.

So often, we focus here on the adult side of St. John – the restaurants, happy hour, fun events and more. Well today, we’d like to tell you about some of our youngest residents who recently had a very cool experience of their own. The following story was written by Andrea Milam about St. John’s very own Dynamic Dancers. I think you’re going to enjoy it. -Jenn 

St. John Dance Group Enjoys Stateside Performances, Weeklong Trip off Island

By Andrea Milam

Even a force as strong and devastating as Hurricane Irma comes with some silver linings. For the island’s children, one of those silver linings was the group St. John Kids, an effort started by stateside resident Susan Marone, aimed to connect those who visit and love the island with St. John children. The statesiders and their “adopted” island children got to know one another, the adoptees sending gifts and supplies to the children they were connected with. Perhaps one of the most rewarding connections is the link between Sue Nicholas and a member of the all-female island dance group, Dynamic Dancers. This connection led to a trip to the states for the Dynamic Dancers group, the first time many of the young girls were able to leave island since the storms.

“We were treated like royalty, and we made such good friends,” said Loraine “Pat” Richards, who founded the Dynamic Dancers in 2013.

(Side note from Jenn: I had the opportunity to meet Sue Nicholas and her family earlier this year during a News of St. John island tour. Sue is an amazing woman, and we are fortunate she loves our little island so much.)

On May 30, Miss Pat, along with 25 St. John girls, one as young as 3 years old, and 12 teen and adult chaperones, traveled to New Hampshire to perform in a recital at the Lakes Region Dance Studio, where Sue Nicholas works as a tumbling teacher. There were many “firsts” for the girls on the trip, including the first plane ride for some of them, and their first experience on a rollercoaster during a group outing to the Story Land amusement park.

“The first time I was terrified, but the second time it was so much fun,” said Dynamic Dancer Yamilette Diaz-Reyes of the rollercoaster experience.

Miss Pat in a selfie with some of the dancers on the plane.

Miss Pat in a selfie with some of the dancers on the plane.

Girls from both dance groups at Story Land amusement park in New Hampshire.

Girls from both dance groups at Story Land amusement park in New Hampshire.

Two of Dynamic Dancers youngest at Story Land.

Two of Dynamic Dancers youngest at Story Land.

In addition to dancing at the planned recital, the girls performed at two other venues, they enjoyed a train ride, and they got to work on their gymnastics skills at the Lakes Region Dance Studio. The studio also hosted a welcome picnic for the Dynamic Dancers the day after they arrived. Adults and children from both dance groups became very close during the Dynamic Dancers’ weeklong trip to the states.

“Stephanie, who connected with my daughter De’neicia Baxter through the St. John Kids program, I could say she’s like my family now,” says Miss Pat. “That’s how close we became. The girls from the Lakes Region Dance Studio had never met the Dynamic Dancers girls before, and by the end of the trip, you would’ve thought they grew up together, that they were sisters. That’s how close their bond was.”

Miss Pat says she watched her Dynamic Dancers go from quiet and reserved when they first arrived to totally relaxed and happy by the end of the trip.

“It had a lot to do with what they went through with the storm and everything,” she says.

Some of the Dynamic Dancers easily picked out their favorite parts of the week, while others found it hard to choose.

“I liked all of it, I can’t choose a favorite part,” said Jada Jn-Phillip. “The performances were really amazing.”

The girls’ trip to the states was also incredibly fulfilling for those who hosted them. Here’s what Sue from the Lakes Region Dance Studio had to say about the visit:

“What was most memorable was seeing some of the Dynamic Dancers meet up with family members who live stateside, and the St. John Kids group matches getting a chance to meet up and simply spend time together. Another memorable moment was seeing the Dynamic Dancers hit the stage and dance their hearts out. The crowd roared and they did a great job! It was a touching moment to see our Lakes Region dancers meet up with their Dynamic Dancer pen pals at the welcome party, and watch them make what I feel will be some lifetime connections. I simply loved spending time with the girls and getting to know them, and I can’t wait to get back to St. John and teach some more tumble classes to them. Never in my wildest dreams after the hurricanes hit did I think we would be able to do something as special as this trip for children on the island.”

Miss Pat has big future plans for her dancers. Follow the Dynamic Dancers on Facebook to see what they’re up to next!

People Profiles: Cid Hamling, Owner of Connections

cid connections

By Chelsea Baranowski

If you have lived more than a day on St. John, you have most likely met Cid Hamling. Cid owns and operates Connections, a one stop shop for mail, Western Union, and most importantly, finding any and all information about the happenings of our tiny island home. Any newcomer will be immediately told, no matter what they are in search of, that they need to walk their butt straight through the glass doors of that purple building and get themselves acquainted with a simple bulletin board and a couple refreshing smiles.

Picture this, you’ve just moved to St. John. You need a place to live, a car, a cell phone… You need to set up your life. Where will the whole island send you? Connections. Because, while the internet and technology continue to take over our lives, St. John, and the Virgin Islands for that matter, still do things a little differently.

We still have a word of mouth system St. John. It is a quality that served us well after the storms when service being “spotty” was the understatement of the century. To this day, we rely on each other, person to person, to send messages to one another, to retrieve intel, to benefit the community through connection. And that has been Cid’s life work.

Cid has two masters degrees, one in counsel psychology and another in social work. It’s no wonder that every day of her life she is counseling and serving the public. However, like so many of us St. Johnians, her story here didn’t start that way.

It was 1981 and Cid was simply “taking a break” after her degrees when she decided to start working on boats. She traveled up and down the East Coast, taking people to the America’s Cup, drinking in the freedom of the seas. That year she hopped on the “perfect boat” heading to the Caribbean in hopes of heading to the Med thereafter. Once she saw that Caribbean blue sea sparkle though, there was no turning back. She was working on a boat in St. Thomas and every day off work kept finding herself on the quiet little island of St. John. After a year of commuting to her peaceful place, she made the move.

One afternoon during a casual conversation, she told Forest Fisher, the editor of the Tradewinds and a real estate agent, “I’m tired of working for other people and making them rich.” He replied with “well, what would you do?” She thought about it and said “I’d start a place where you could make a phone call.” Back then you waited over six months to get a land line from VITELCO, and you couldn’t get a post office box with all the pull in the world. Fisher, quite the “character” and free spirit, handed her the key to his office that day, located upstairs from the present-day Connections. That day Cid and her roommate found a card table, walked it down the very precarious Jacob’s Ladder, and opened their doors the next day. From there, things expanded. They continually added services and soon they attained the first fax machine on St. John.

“After about a year, I decided I should probably get legal,” she joked.

I have personally known Cid my entire life, so conducting this interview was far from conventional and far from easy, mostly because we kept getting side tracked with our own anecdotes and, of course, “connection.” I even told Cid we would have to do another interview because I just hadn’t got enough of her story. But after much thought, I realized our connection was ‘her story,’ rather, her connection with St. John, with the community, was her story.

If I had a dollar for every time I have said to various people “Ask Cid,” I would have a house in Peter Bay. The woman truly emanates the spirit of people who arrived on St. John in the ‘70s and ‘80s in search of a community just like this one. In 2015, Cid placed one of her cohorts in this ‘transplant’ group, Jenn Robinson, a 25-year veteran of Lime Inn Restaurant, at her secondary location, Connections East. Cid tells me developing this professional post for Jenn, for another human being, was her greatest accomplishment. If that doesn’t sum it up, I don’t know what does.

What’s more is she is currently the administrator for the St. John Revolving Fund, a non-profit generated to benefit St. Johnians with medical bills, who otherwise could not fund their medical expenses. She is on the board of the Friends of the National Park, and the board of the Long Term Recovery Group, groups devoted to recovery after our recent catastrophic events. These are just her current posts. This does not include the 37 years of petitions, rallies, fundraisers, drives, events, carnival floats, town hall meetings, and most importantly, her presence at every community event she has ever felt strongly about. So all of them.

What makes Cid unique is that she embodies community in her professional and personal life. And even better, she is constantly amazed, stunned even, by the beauty of her island and its people. She tells me, “If I ever quit smiling about the beauty of St. John, I’ll leave.”

We sure hope that time is never.

Chelsea Baranowski is a lifelong St .John resident. She owns the popular Lime Inn restaurant in Cruz Bay with her husband Richard. The couple has two sons. 

2018 Seasonal Closings List

Closed Sign
We’ve been getting a lot of emails and Facebook messages asking us about this year’s seasonal restaurant and bar closings. It’s a tad early still, so a few businesses are still deciding whether they are going to stay open or when they will close and, if so, for how long. That being said, this list may be updated from time to time, so please check back often.

If I missed anything, please let me know in the Comments sections and I will add it in.

You can also find the list at

Click here to download a printable PDF version of this list. 

  • 420 to Center: Staying open
  • Aqua Bistro: Staying open
  • Asolare: Closed permanently due to storms
  • Banana Deck: Last day is August 26; Reopening date TBD
  • Barefoot Cowboy Lounge: Closed due to storms
  • Beach Bar: Closed due to storms; Will reopen this fall
  • Bikinis on the Beach: Staying open
  • Cafe Concordia: Closed due to storms
  • Cafe Roma: Staying open
  • Candie’s: Closed due to storms
  • Caneel Bay Resort: Closed due to storms
  • Château Bordeaux: Closed due to storms
  • Chester’s: Closed
  • Cinnamon Bay Campground: Closed due to storms
  • Columbo’s Smoothie Stand: No info yet.
  • Coral Bay Caribbean Oasis: Last day is July 20; Reopening October 1
  • Cruz Bay Landing: Staying open
  • da Livio’s: Staying open
  • De’ Coal Pot: Closed due to storms
  • Dog House Pub: Staying open
  • DR!NK: Closing August 11th through mid-October
  • Driftwood Dave’s: Closed due to storms
  • Extra Virgin Bistro: Last night is August 25; Reopening date TBD
  • Gecko Gazebo: Closing September 6 through 11 for maintenance
  • Greengo’s: Staying open
  • Hercules: No info yet.
  • High Tide:  Staying open
  • Indigo Grill: TBD
  • Island Cork: Staying open
  • Jake’s: Closed due to storms
  • Joe’s Rum Hut: Closed due to storms; Will reopen this fall
  • Knox & Ollies: Closed due to storms
  • La Tapa: Closing August 12; Reopening in October
  • Lemongrass at the Westin: Closed due to storms; Restaurant will reopen January 2019
  • Lime Inn: Last night is August 25; Reopening October 8
  • Little Olive: Closed for season; Reopening in October
  • Lucky Chops: TBD
  • Margarita Phil’s: Closing last week of August; Reopening last week of October
  • Miss Lucy’s: No info yet.
  • Morgan’s Mango: Staying open; Will continue to close on Wednesdays until week of Thanksgiving
  • Nella’s Lounge: No info yet.
  • North Shore Deli: TBD
  • Ocean 362: Last day is August 27; Reopening October 10
  • Ocean Grill: Closing August 24 through October 5
  • Our Market Smoothies: No info yet.
  • P & P’s: No info yet.
  • Pickles: No info yet.
  • Pizzabar in Paradise: TBD
  • Pizza Pi (Located in Christmas Cove): Last day is July 21; Reopening mid-November
  • Quiet Mon: TBD
  • Rhumb Lines: No info yet.
  • Ronnie’s Pizza: TBD
  • Sam and Jack’s Deli: Staying open
  • Shipwreck Landing: Closed due to storms
  • Skinny Legs: Last day open is August 25; Will reopen on Halloween with a big party!
  • Slimman and the Snack Dragon: Closed due to storms
  • Sogo’s: Closed due to storms
  • St. John Provisions: Staying open
  • St. John Scoops: Staying open
  • Sun Dog Cafe: Closing September 6 through 11 for maintenance
  • Tamarind Inn: Closed due to storms; Reopening date TBD
  • The Bowery: Closed due to storms
  • The Tap & Still: Will be open
  • The Tap Room: Staying open
  • The Thirsty Donkey: Closed due to storms
  • The Fish Trap: Closed permanently; Lucky Chops is now in that location.
  • The Longboard: Closing July 29 through August 1
  • The Terrace: Last day open is August 1st. Reopening mid-September
  • The Triple B: Closed due to storms
  • UMAMI: Closed due to storms
  • Uncle Joe’s: Staying open
  • Waterfront Bistro: Closed due to storms
  • West Indies Delight: No info yet
  • Wok on the Beach: No info yet.
  • Woody’s: Staying open (closed on Sundays)
  • Zozo’s Ristorante: Closed due to storms

Westin Gets Amazing New Boat for Guests!!

new westin boat

Hello everyone and happy Monday! If you’ve been lucky enough to be on island over the past week (or if you are lucky enough to have friends send you photos like in my case), you may have seen an insane new boat over at the Westin. And by insane, I mean absolutely incredible!

From what we hear, the boat pictured above is going to be the Westin’s new passenger ferry when it reopens in January 2019. How cool is that??!! This new fast ferry is more than 100 feet long, and by the looks of it, it will likely transport guests from St. Thomas to the Westin dock in no time! It was only on island for a few days, but it sounds like it will be returning to the Westin in the near future. And I don’t know about you all, but I’m pretty excited to check it out in person!

As we told you back in May, the Westin is working extremely hard to fix the damage created by last year’s storms. Click here to read that story and to see pics taken in May.

And here are a few more pics taken at the end of June:

westin uphillwestin from beachwestin dingywestin beachfront buildings

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again… BIG kudos to the folks at the Westin for starting cleanup on the property almost immediately after the storm and for working hard to reopen ever since.

That’s all we have for you today, folks! Have a great one everyone!

New Webcam Up in Chocolate Hole

down yonder webcam

Hello everyone and happy Friday!!

We know how much you love to check out the webcams, so today we’d like to tell you about a new one that just went online.

Island Abodes has installed a new webcam on their Down Yonder villa, which is located in Chocolate Hole. As you can see in the screenshot above, the webcam points south over a salt pond and then out to Chocolate Hole bay and the Caribbean sea. Click the image above to check it out or you can click this link.

Want to see more webcams? See them all by visiting

Fresh is on the Menu at Extra Virgin

Creagh Spillano, bar manager, stands with EVB owners Tom Garfield and Ryan Constanzo on the restaurant's rooftop deck.

Creagh Spillano, bar manager, stands with EVB owners Tom Garfield and Ryan Constanzo in the restaurant’s rooftop garden.

There’s some pretty cool stuff happening on St. John. Today we’d like to tell you a bit about the rooftop garden at Extra Virgin Bistro. It’s the only one of its kind in Cruz Bay, and I have to say, it’s pretty neat. Andrea Milam stopped by the restaurant recently to check it out. Here is her story:

Fresh is on the Menu at Extra Virgin

By Andrea Milam

Land is at a premium on St. John, which means fresh, locally grown fruits, vegetables, and herbs can be hard to come by. Extra Virgin Bistro is tackling this issue by going up. The restaurant’s flat rooftop is now home to countless potted plants and raised planter beds where restaurant staff grows and tends to tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini and zucchini flowers, peppers, lettuce, carrots, beets, radishes, pineapples, watermelon, pomegranate, limes, avocadoes, several varieties of rosemary, parsley, mint, tarragon, dill, and much, much more.

You’ll find something from the garden on Extra Virgin’s menu every single day. Sometimes it’s a rooftop garden salad featuring greens and produce grown on site. Tarragon is used in their short rib dish, and herbs from the roof are often used as garnishes or in cocktails. On the day I visited to tour the garden, fresh harvested pumpkin flower was used as a textural element to accompany a seared foie gras dish. Hot sauces are made from chilis and banana peppers grown at Extra Virgin, and can be purchased by contacting the restaurant’s Facebook page. Getting hungry yet?

Thai chilis and hot sauces - Image credit: Ryan Costanzo

Thai chilis and hot sauces – Image credit: Ryan Costanzo

Extra Virgin has gained quite a following in the nearly three years they’ve been open, and the addition of a beautiful, carefully tended garden where they can source fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs to add to their menu items makes for a really special experience, especially on an island where good, fresh produce is so highly coveted.

“It makes our menu a little different,” says Extra Virgin owner Ryan Costanzo. “We can grow specialty carrots that you can’t get from purveyors down here, or rainbow radishes, and we can grow our own microgreens.”

Carrots in the grow bed on the roof - Image credit: Ryan Costanzo

Carrots in the grow bed on the roof – Image credit: Ryan Costanzo

Ryan and his team actually started the garden before the storm hit, and surprisingly it held up reasonably well. In the weeks after Irma, when there wasn’t much restaurant business to be had, they took the opportunity to build it up and expand.

“We were sitting here for a couple of months with no business, no power, nothing to do,” Ryan says. “My dad’s porch had exploded so I said, ‘Let’s grab that wood and build some planter boxes.’”

Ryan also designed and installed an irrigation system, and they planted flowers to attract bees for pollination. They even ordered ladybugs in the mail, which sounds like a miracle considering how hard it is to find retail outlets to ship to the Virgin Islands, to combat an aphid problem in the garden. The rooftop garden is actually quite a charming space, and Ryan hopes to one day be able to host private dinners up there.

Fresh flowers grown on the roof - Image credit: Ryan Costanzo

Fresh flowers grown on the roof – Image credit: Ryan Costanzo

In the meantime, be sure to stop by Extra Virgin for a drink or a meal and see the inventive ways they’ve decided to incorporate that day’s harvest.

How interesting is that??!! Thank you Andrea for sharing such a great story with all of us! Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone! -Jenn