The History of Carnival in St. Maarten
Prior to 1970 the Island Government installed a yearly committee to arrange and carry out activities to celebrate various holidays such as Queen's birthday, April 30th, St. Maarten's Day, November 11th and Kingdom Day, December 15th. For several years, on these dates parades of troupes and groups were organized along with talent shows
The committee was called The Oranje Committee and was made up of Government employees. The committee was usually headed by the chief of Public Work, the late Mr. Alexis (Lexy) Arnell, who was responsible for overseeing all the necessary preparations. Other members included, the late Stanley Smith, Leonie Wyatte, Camille Baly, Arnold Scott, Wally Havertong, Victor Curlingford and Joyce Jones just to name a few.
After seeing the growing interest of the public in the "Festivities" as they were then called, the Executive Council decided in 1970 to send both Mr. Arnell and Mr. Jocelyn Arndell to St. Thomas, on a fact-finding mission, to see how the St. Thomas Carnival was organized and obtain information which could help improve the local "Festivities".
After returning to St. Maarten the committee staged the "Festivities" on November 1tth. The festival site was next to Philipsburg Utilities present location. Later the "Festivities" were moved to the Pondfill area where the Philipsburg Jubilee Library and the Sundial School are presently located.
The committee received a mere 1500 guilders, allotted from the Government budget, so many businesses donated generously to the "Festivities". GEBE supplied the electricity free of charge. With the cooperation of Mr. Allan Daniel from Curacao and Mr. Woody of Aruba, bands and troupes were brought to St. Maarten to stimulate participation in the "Festivities". ALM donated the tickets.
The "Festivities" lost their appeal when St. Maarten's Day activities were held on the French Side. So the Queen's birthday, April 30th, was finally chosen for the Carnival Grand Parade, because it followed the ending of St. Thomas carnival activities as well as coinciding with the end of the tourist season.
To stimulate the festival activities, bands from the neighboring islands such as "The big band" from Nevis were invited to participate.
The "Festivities" were then moved to the area on Pondfill presently known as the "Carnival Village". The calypso shows were different then. Calypsonians had to sing three sections, a song of their own composition, one from another calypsonian and one extempo (a calypso improvised on the spot).
After experiencing financial difficulties in 1983, it was doubtful weather Carnival would be celebrated the following year. The then president, Karl (Tall boy) Arndell, contacted Keith Franca, then of the Kiwanis Club and Anselmo Scantlebery, then of the Jaycees Club for assistance, and the Task Force was born. The group consisted of Michael Deher, Frank Lake and Keith Franca of the Kiwanis Club, Celeste Beauperthuy of the Lions Club, Anselmo Scantlebery, Daniel Brown, Jenny Peters, Sandra Marlin of the Jaycees, Ruby Daniel, Gloria Mitchell, Al Wathey, Raoul Ilidge, Roy Boasman and Lucien Arnell.
The task force was initially formed to save Carnival in 1984, however they were asked to stay on in 1985 to help coordinate the 15th anniversary celebrations. In 1986 the Task Force disbanded and Carnival was organized from then until 1989 by the St. Maarten Cultural and Festival Committee. In 1990, the then Commissioner of Culture, Valerie Gitterson-Pantophlet requested the former Task-force members to return to organize the Carnival celebrations.
This group then became what is known today as the St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation (SCDF).