Elmore Stoutt High School students provide a beat as a mini parade makes its way through the streets of Cyril B. Romney Tortola Pier Park on Friendship Day on Saturday. (Photo: DANA KAMPA)

Fifty years ago, stormy skies supposedly gave way to the sun on the first-ever Friendship Day between this territory and the United States Virgin Islands.

History repeated itself on Oct. 22 when leaders and other community members came together for the celebration’s golden jubilee.

Both the VI and the USVI territorial songs rang out at Cyril B. Romney Tortola Pier Park as the representatives united for the first formal observance of Friendship Day since 2019 on St. Thomas.

Students from Elmore Stoutt High School provided entertainment on steel pans while community members decked in territorial wear led a mini-parade through the park, followed by moko jumbies performing daring tricks high in the air.

The day also featured the musical talents of Gen Y Factor winners Durnel Sanderson, Dwight Hutchinson, Toriah Pryce and Yohance Smith and spiritual songs by the Turnbull Singers and Onyeke Huggins.

In recognition of the ongoing relationship among the islands, USVI Governor Albert Bryan Jr. — who became governor in January 2019 — paid a visit to the VI and voiced his support for the territory as it goes through a transformative period.

He also recalled the ways the islands banded together in the aftermath of the 2017 hurricanes and offered light-hearted banter about leadership of the neighbouring territories.

Mr. Bryan also spoke about the territories’ respective anthems, which focus on both the natural beauty of the islands and the fortitude needed to further progress in the region.

“When they say they would have the wisdom to guide the people, they understand the tremendous burden that we have as Virgin Islanders in these small countries with little resources,” he said of the people who built the communities. “In their wisdom, they did not take the easy path; they took the rough path. They chose the path of not letting people come and dictate exactly what they are going to do. We were going to build it ourselves, and they will come. That is wisdom.”

Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley thanked the USVI for its support and expressed hope for future collaboration on tourism and environmental issues.

The day’s festivities concluded with a skit written by playwright Janice Stoutt poking fun at travels between the two territories.

Then community members were free to enjoy traditional VI foods like peas soup and to view weaving demonstrations.