Lament of a local


No more vendors in the park!

A native son of St. John is angry.

This is not the first time Philip Pickering, aka 'Grasshopper', has shouted about change on  St. John. This time, instead of at a community meeting, he's doing it via Facebook

Pickering is a very talented musician.  He has toured the world with his band, Inner Visions.  Perhaps you've heard of it?  Hah!  World renowned reggae. They play at the Beach Bar and Fred's, from Coral Bay to Europe. In fact, tonight they're playing at High Tide in Cruz Bay.

He's no mainland-move-to-the-islands-mon pretender.  He's a real St. Johnian.  And he's angry.

"In 10 years, the VI will no longer look like a tropical destination," he says, faulting "the people in government who should be doing what's right for tourism."

Pickering is incensed that in this month of Folklife Festival, and after spending of so much money to redo the park in Cruz Bay, the local vendors of hot sauces, teas, carvings and t shirts have been barred from setting up tables.  "Forbidding the sale of arts in crafts in the park for the reason I've gotten is just plain stupid," he  said. "Folks who own businesses in the area hate the look, and lobbied to Government to have it changed.  They say it looks like a third world ghetto."

His point is things like local vendors selling their creations  are part of the island's life, and a part of the character of St. John.  So are fish fries, Shela's Pot, and Pan Dragons playing in the bandstand. "Tourists come here to enjoy the cultural difference, yet slowly but surely we are taking away everything cultural," Pickering said.

The Inquiring Iguana may not agree with everything he says.  But, his is an important voice, an important home-grown point of view.  He doesn't own a million dollar villa.  He's a musician.  He's a local.  And he doesn't like what his government's leaders are letting happen to St,. John.  "We are going to be another Miami," he cries. "(Haven't) we learned from watching our sister island, St. Thomas?"

32 thoughts on “Lament of a local”

  1. This is another sad day for St John. I must agree with Grasshopper 100%, the local vendors in the park are a part of the charm and character of the island.
    The leaders would be better suited to promote and enhance the local culture rather than becoming a cookie cutter destination.

  2. Almost every improvement or change is another step away from what was so unique and special. The only hope is for the locals to take back their Island and call the shots again, NOW. I have faith because they are a wise and strong people more qualified to shape their future than others. At the current pace of “change and improvements”, especially in the last two or three years, if something is not done quickly their home and a paradise will be lost. New laws, pave this/pave that, more this/more that, NO! The local flavor and the local people is what’s special. I can’t believe how fast this is happening.

  3. So called progress is often more harmful that productive. I have traveled to StJohn 8 times and it has gotten farther and farther away from the paradise I first saw 8 years ago! Such a shame, why can’t people just leave it be, awesome, beautiful and charming!

  4. We have gone to STJ. for the past 10 years in January. Things are changing and most of it not for the better. There is a certain charm to local vendors selling there products. It is a big part of Island life. Government always seems to make a mess of things. Someone should post who the local businesses are that complained so we can boycott them.

  5. I have been going to St John since the early 80’s when there were no condos on the shore of Cruz Bay. Please let St John alone, keep the local flavor, and beauty as it is, too much has been done already, enough! Look at St Thomas, if it weren’t for St John I would never even visit the USVI at all…let the local vendors alone, it’s their home.

  6. Are you kidding me, first they try and remove Patrick and now Sheila !!! Grasshopper is right on, St.John will become another St.Thomas “a warm sunny destination to go to and party with ridiculous crime” Let the Locals who care about St.John and aren’t committing crimes make an honest living. How much more can we change there homeland and eliminate an important part there culture and a way to make a fair and honest living. St.John is a special place ! Government STOP SCREWING IT UP !

  7. Yeah, this sucks. Its one thing to keep it looking like trenchtown but its another thing to get rid of it completely … no middle ground?
    Its only a matter of time until the locals hit the boiling point with the ‘continentals’ running their lives. The increase in crime is not “coincidental”.

  8. Hi Everyone, First let me say if the visitors like to go to these showings let it be. The locals can show off their wares and make a few buck and the tourist can pick up a few items of local color and flavor.
    If you want to keep it under control treat it like a farmers market and only have it on certain days of the week….Al

  9. In 4 weeks i will returning to st john for the 6th time.I hope i get to meet and talk to phillip. I always look forward to going to the park to support the local vendors. Due to increased popularty the island is changing.Only time will tell if its for the better. My experince is any time the goverment gets to involved it becomes a mess. You only have to look north to washington to see that. By the way i hope phillip and the band returns to musicfest in bethlehem real soon.

  10. This is a RIDICULOUS change. Come on, this is what STJ is all about, don’t change STJ right out of it’s very
    character, first time I came in 2000, the venders were in the park, it is a bit of local charm that tourists see when they come off the ferry that time of year.
    Have some common sense for the common man.

  11. I have been traveling to St J for about 11 years. I have witnissed more and more of changes and modernization but not always for the better, for ex. that giant condo monstrosity and the development at Chocolate Hole that never came to be. The more you add to this island the less of the original island is still there. The tent sales are part of the island and something people look forward to seeing. Local folks make a few dollars and visitors carry home some island treasures. What, does St. John really need another restraunt to sell quesadillas and burgers? Yeah, that’s real carribean. Very soon they will cut down the tress for more buildings and parking lots. Then all the beaches will become private access for condo owners only.

  12. We too are long time lovers of St. John and have been vacationing there for 25+ years. The charm has always been the casual ambience and, yes, the locals in the park, along with their wares & boiling pots is/was part of the attraction. I’m just a “tourist”, but please heed the pleas of your locals. “Progress” is ruining the true St. John.

  13. Been coming to St. John for 30 years now.
    The local vendors are much part of the character and appeal of this place.
    Big, big mistake to bar them for the park.
    This is a decision that needs to be reversed….now.

  14. The government takes so much away from hard working people it isn’t funny. They just want to get into office to make themselves look “good”, so they think. Look at what the state of MA looks like. We too have been visiting STJ for many years and it scares me so to see what “progress” is doing to that special island. STJ is a very special place and thank God for FDR for doing what he did. The locals should have every right to set up and sell their wares. I see nothing wrong with that. It’s the only way to keep tradition alive in the islands. We’ve always enjoyed seeing them set up and no one was ever pushy like some islands (reason; why we don’t go to those). STJ is a very special place in all our hearts…Don’t ruin it for the locals…!

  15. I agree I love buying the locally made items. If it works why break it. I was in St John during carnevale for the first iot was my second visit to the island. It is part of culture, let it be.

  16. Yes you’re right ! We have been coming to St John for many Years and stayed a few weeks at a time in a rental Cottage.
    It will loose it’s charm if the local vendors will be out casted. So please LOCAL VENDORS .

  17. This is a very sad change. I agree with Phillip. A change like this just takes St. John on step further away from what originally attracted us all to the island. Why is this the first I’ve heard of this! Has no one raised their voice before Phillip or are we guilty of not paying attention? The government didn’t come up with this idea on their own – who was the driving force on getting the local vendors banned???

  18. I am both glad that Grasshopper is speaking out on Facebook and more so that he’s getting heard elsewhere. I would love the person(s) who made the decision to ban the Arts Festival vendors to explain why this was a good plan and how it benefits the people of STJ. The changes happening island-wide are grim with the future of STJ’s young people at stake. The question is, what can be done about it?

  19. In three weeks, I will be in STJ for the 23rd time since 1989. I, too, have seen too many changes and not for the better. Those ugly large unfinished condos,for example, are an eyesore. Yes, we could use more parking but, everyone seems to manage or take a taxi and again support a local.
    Hey GOVERNMENT people… leave the locals alone and let them do their thing. I love the local flare of the vendors in the park and frequent them buying their special wares as well as going into the stores and patronizing them.
    Perhaps, a compromise can be agreed upon with set days for the vendors each week.

  20. When in St. John, either visiting, or hopefully someday relocating, I prefer to shop from local vendors! I don’t want to travel that far to buy things that are sold at every department store in the US. I like things that are handmade by the people of St. John!

  21. Let it be. If it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it. Big money trying to dictate everything. It’s sad, we must stay together.

  22. Who are these vendors bothering? Personally, when I go to St. John every year in February, I spend a few days looking for the perfect gifts that are MADE ON ST. JOHN. It gets harder every year. Only one time I saw vendors in the park. It meant a lot to me. I felt like I was seeing the real St. John.

  23. Look – its part of the charm & it helps the locals. St Johnians aren’t on the beaches braiding hair, selling seashells from China – like in some places they call “paradise”. They are selling local craft & wares. I am sure its about the bottom line & there is money to be had. GOVERNMENT – LEAVE IT BE!!!

  24. I have been coming to St John for the past 18 years and have seen alot of change, and not all for the good. When I come to St. John, I don,t want to buy things from a tourist trap made in China store. I want to buy FROM THE LOCALS, art and crafts!! THAT IS THE CHARM OF ST. JOHN, PLEASE DON’T TURN IT INTO ANOTHER TOURIST TRAP ISLAND.

  25. The charm of St. John is it’s simplicity and laid back life style. Laid back is overused but to me it means drinking a beer when and where you want, having a smoke(any kind is fine) when and where you want, braking for goats and donkeys and visiting local artisans who really have a connection to the island. Now the government is involved and as we Americans have learned over the last three years this is not a good thing. Contrary to what certain politicians(BHO)think the purpose of governement is not to protect us from ourselves. Now we can’t smoke and locals can’t sell their wares. What’s next? sidewalks and a dress code? An indoor shopping mall? I am so glad that I didn’t buy property here ten years ago when I was completely smitten with the counter culture atmosphere. I will still visit but I’m glad not to be obligated to be here. Inner Visions rocks.

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