Ready for early holiday shopping?

Calendar While merchants on the mainland are just hoping to get a decent Back to School season, Elaine Estern is already gearing up for Christmas.  She’s taking pre-orders for her 2010 Calendar, and built interest by running a contest to name the item.

Calendar_2 There were several winners who offered “St. John Citizens,” the chosen entry.  Estern said she’ll give autographed copies of the calendar to them: Jim and Annette Harper and Sandy Dean. But rather than people of St. John, the "Citizens" depicted are animals: fish, peacocks, dogs, cats, and various beautiful birds. Each of the monthly pages feature one of Estern’s colorful, sometimes whimsical, and always entertaining watercolors.

You can see this year’s art selections at http://www.coconutcoaststudios.com/Site/Calendar.html.

Estern plans to start shipping calendars in September.

How Inner Visions got to Maine

Maine More than 10 years ago, a chance encounter with a villa owner at Fred's night club led   Grasshopper Pickering and his reggae group, Inner Visions, to New England.

The villa owners, John and Katherine Reny, live in Round Pond, Maine when they're not on island.  According to an article in their home town newspaper, the Lincoln County News, the Renys enjoyed the music and invited the group to their house.  Next thing Grasshopper knows, the couple offered to sponsor his band’s CD releases and invited Inner Visions to Maine.

A few house parties up north followed, and then the Damariscotta River Association asked the band to play at its annual fund raising event for conservation  and education programs, the Great Salt Bay Music Festival.  Sunday, Inner Visions made its fourth annual appearance at the event.

“It’s all about future generations and protecting Mother nature for them,” Pickering told the newspaper. “We hope that our own children will return to this area, and to the river we’re helping to preserve.

Besides offering good music, Inner Visions also has a good time. “Mainers come out with a vengeance” during the summer months,” Pickering said. “It’s s real party.”

Gas cheapest in Coral Bay

The latest gasoline price survey by the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs the price of a regular gallon of gas at E&C in Cruz Bay is $3.119.  In Coral Bay, at the full-service Domino, it’s $3.049. 

Yes, you read that right.  Gas in Coral Bay is cheaper than in Cruz Bay. 

Doesn’t seem to make sense.

$2 million for Fish Bay, Coral Bay

More federal stimulus money is on the way to the island.  The Coral Bay Community Council will receive $1.47 million and the Fish Bay Homeowners Association will get $474,000 to be used to combat pollution of the bays and coral reefs caused by runoff from the hills.

The St. John Source said Coral Bay’s Community Council will use the money to repair roadways and storm drains while Fish Bay will see installation of culverts, swales and a retaining wall.

Inner Visions returns to Maine

IV-1 For the fourth year in a row, St. John’s Inner Visions is taking its reggae to the coastal Maine village of Damariscotta, an hour and fifteen minutes northwest of Portland

Why is a bunch of guys in dreadlocks playing music with an infectious beat there?  The Damariscotta River Association, in a statement, said the band is back “by popular demand …(to) shake it up with their electrifying vibe, infectious rhythms, and tight vocal harmonies.” Click here to hear a sample of the band’s previous appearances.

Natty B, who owns a CD store in the region, explained, “We don't get much diversity of culture around here. Inner Visions brings something new to us.”

The band is headlining the Great Salt Bay Music festival on Sunday.  The afternoon will feature what the DRA called “Caribbean food and spirits, a fresh oyster bar” and “Alternative energy displays and demonstrations, including the ceremonial “flipping of the switch” for DRA’s new wind generator.

After the Damariscotta concert, Inner Visions continues its summer tour of the U.S. with stops in Woodstock, New York, Asheville, N.C., and Lafayette, La.

Villa sales off 25%, prices too

Forsale Same song in the real estate market. It's the one they’ve been humming for more than a year. 

The agents try to hum a good tune conceding business is down a bit, but … we’re half way through the year. Nine home sales have closed.  Last year the number was 12. 

You do the math.

For the first time in years, too, there appear to be more higher-priced properties coming onto the market. 

The average asking price has traditionally held at $2.2 million, or so.  Now, with 145 houses on the Multiple Listing Service, it’s risen to $2.5 million, an increase of about 14%.  The median price of a listed house, however, is steady at $1.5 million.

There is clearly lots of negotiating and dealing going on.  None of the nine deals closed at the most recent asking price.  In fact, the average house sold for 21% less than asking.  Three sales went off at prices more than 30% below the listed number.  The average sale price was just under a million, at $987,000.

‘Old’ police SUVs won’t die …

They will be given to Members of the Virgin Islands Senate

The Daily News says 15 three-year-old GMC Envoys, used by the Police department, will be assigned to the Senators. 

Senate President Louis Hill said the SUVs will be swapped for the lawmakers' current vehicles, 2002 Trailblazers.

Virgin Islands police officers got new cars earlier this year.

Stimulus money to buy new ferries

Cruz bay ferry tourists 1 Two new ferries may ‘soon come.’

Governor John deJongh announced that the Virgin Islands has received federal grant money to improve passenger ferry service between St. Thomas and St. John.

In a press release, the Governor said “The government has received a grant through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) totaling $3 million dollars for the specific purpose of upgrading the ferry service now being provided between Cruz Bay, St. John and Red Hook.”

Public Works Commissioner Darryl A. Smalls said the federal stimulus funds combined with $1.5 million from the Federal Highway Administration Federal Aid Program and approximately $644,000 from the Ferry Boat Discretionary Program will be used for the purchase of two ferryboats, one each for the current franchise operators, Varlack Ventures and Transportation Services.

Virgin Islands anticipate 30% tourism drop

Tree07 The economic slump is hitting the islands hard, to judge by the Department of Tourism’s budget estimates for the next year.  DOT has told the VI Senate it needs $4.38 million, half of which is for personnel.  None of it is for advertising and marketing the islands.

“Fringe benefits” add another $727,252 in costs, according to a report by the Virgin Islands Daily News.  (Read the full story here.)

The Inquiring Iguana thinks this is wacky, at least.  Fringe benefits add another 36% to costs.  Must be one hell of a company picnic.  Some researchers say 11% is more the norm.

But, back to business.  Tourism said it expects to receive $13.6 million from the Revolving Fund.  That comes from the 8% Hotel Tax you pay when you stay on St. John.  Commissioner Beverly  Nicholson-Doty told the Senators her department expects 30% less marketing dollars as a result of fewer visitors.  She said she’ll have to be more “savvy and efficient.”

Anyone doubt that. despite this, the police will still get new SUVs?

Rain – good or bad?

Rain As a vacationer, you don’t want rain.

As a local, with a cistern the only source of water, rain is a good thing. 

So, when it rains like heck, and the gutters are not connected, it’s a bad thing.  As the couple who write the Live de Life blog from St. Thomas reported and videoed this week.

According to the St. John Source, quoting a weatherman in Puerto Rico, it’s likely to rain for the next few days.  Which is – depending – good and bad.  He said there could be two inches of rain some places.  Read the Source story.   

AccuWeather sees rain and showers all week.