In travel writing, it’s all too easy to represent the best things you can do with your time, those most memorable experiences, as the ‘best’ the place has to offer. The typical travel article will paint a picture of a place at festival time as some kind of fact of life thing. As if everyone walks around in massive feathered headdresses and sequined bikini all the time and they just happen to come together at Carnival time.
In fact, even the Wikipedia article on Barbados’ Crop Over (at the time of writing, mid May 2011) declares: ‘For the entire two months life for many islanders is one big party’. It feeds into the fantasy that outsiders have about the Caribbean: that the locals are all ‘laid back’. Yet, every year they put on a bigger and better festival. Crop Over isn’t an insight into the pace of life in Barbados. It’s a long, well deserved rest for those who make such a long festival period possible.
What To Expect From Crop Over
Crop Over is a festival you have to experience at least once. Crop Over starts in June (with events in May too), and lasts until the climatic ‘Grand Kadooment’ on the first Monday of August (this year, the first of August, in 2012 the sixth). So unless you’re getting on a plane in the next two months, you’re going to miss out on this year’s festival.
So why consider Barbados Holidays for Crop Over 2012? Barbados has plenty to offer outside of carnival season, but Crop Over has firmly established itself as a sight to rival Rio and Trinidad among the premier southern hemisphere carnivals. These are the main events:
The festival season kicks off with the Cavalcades, combination fairs and concerts held on four Saturdays in May and June. The Cavalcades showcase local arts and crafts, foods and performance. Expect to see tuk bands, steel pans and calypso among other styles!
Typical venues include Briar Park, Gall Hill, Emerald City and the National Stadium. In 2011, Calvacade featured new ‘Youth Rally’ events in the afternoons and evenings of the first two weekends, focusing on activities and performances on young revellers and performers. Crowds of 5000 are typical.
Crop Over Opening Gala
As you can probably tell from the name, ‘Crop Over’ is traditionally a celebration of the completion of a harvest, in this case, the sugar cane harvest. The Opening Gala, usually on the first Saturday of July, re-emphasises this with a ceremonial delivery of the last harvest cane at Queen’s Park in St. Michael. And this historical angle is also found in the various exhibition spaces on this day.
Another key attraction on Opening Gala day is the King and Queen of the Crop’s parade, which recently returned to the schedule.
Bridgetown Market and Cohobblopot
The weekend of Grand Kadooment certainly gets busy and there are plenty of events to enjoy. Make sure you make it along to the Bridgetown market, which is in its highest gear for the four day weekend. Stalls selling plenty of local trinkets and plenty of food, accompanied by local traditional bands.
On the evening before Grand Kadooment, be sure to attend Cohobblopot, the climax of the fete series. All the biggest names will be there with all the best live music, with a mix and fusion of styles (just as the word ‘Cohobblopot’ itself denotes). Tickets cost around £12 and £22 GBP ($20 – $35 USD, €14 – €25 Euro).
What does ‘Kadooment’ actually mean? Some dictionaries define it as a ‘serious trouble or dictionary’. ‘Grand commotion’ might be a way of effectively glossing the term, and that’s basically this festival highlight in two words. Far larger than life, Grand Kadooment is a feast for every sense you have functional after the fun of Cohobblopot. At the centre of the parade are the ‘Kadooment bands’, with their brightly coloured costumes and cheerful Bajan beats. The costumes can be very modestly cut, but they tend to be bikini-sized, so be prepared!
There are hundreds of reasons to choose Barbados for your holidays to the Caribbean, so let Crop Over be one of them!
Steph is a copywriter from South East England working for Tropical Sky and their family of travel websites.