While most of us feel the magnetic draw of the Caribbean for its powdery white sand beaches, crystalline water and the shockingly blue and green compositions of sea and sky, adding a little culture to the vacation mix ultimately leads to richer experiences. Barbados is calling this summer its Crop Over Festival. This sweet celebration honoring the end of the sugar cane season is a lovely mélange of music, masquerade, art, and heritage. Running now until August 3rd, the event dates back to festivities in the 1780s when the tropical island produced copious amounts of sugar. While tourism may have replaced sugar cane as Barbados’ top earner, the spirit of their history and traditions carries on each summer. On July 31, musicians compete in the Pic-O-De-Crop finals , a calypso competition. In addition, a King and Queen of Crop Over 2009 are selected from the scintillating costume bands that mesmerize visitors with their spectacular regalia and syncopated rhythms. During the last three days, the Spring Garden Highway, the main drag of the festival, converts into a vibrant collage of artisans, dancers, gospel singers, folk performers and steel drummers, enlivening the island with a pulsing beat. Traditional foods add to the indigenous flavor and craft mementos make for authentic take-home memories. It all culminates at the Grand Kadooment, an extravagant street carnival and ferverish dancing parade with Caribbean soca music fueling the fun as locals bedazzled in body paint and elaborate costumes celebrate their heritage and invite you to join the party. Carnivale in the summer… why not?
Photos courtesy of the Barbados Tourism Authority