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Must-do Festivals in Barbados

Must-do Festivals in Barbados
APR 20,2016 @ 05:53

When you are in Barbados, you can be as busy as you want to be with the myriad of activities here cater to your appetite for structure, spontaneity, and everything in between. That’s where our festivals come in – and we’ve got plenty of those! Our festivals, celebrate food, beverage, agriculture, surfing, music, golf, car racing, and culture. Most of all, our festivals celebrate life! 

Barbadians are happy people! We embrace life and celebrate it with unmatched vigor and vitality, in keeping with the colour and flavor of our Caribbean heritage. Our tastes are diverse and we have an appreciation for all things fun. It’s no surprise then that the festival culture is alive and well in Barbados, and that our social calendar of festivals run the gamut from food, beverage, agriculture and surfing, to music, golf, car racing and culture, all catering to the well-rounded you! 

Here’s a sample of what’s in store when you come to Barbados: 

Crop Over: Crop Over, our premier festival, combines a series of fabulous events marking the end of our sugar cane crop season. And if you were ever in Barbados between July and August at Crop Over time, you’d know that the feting never ends and every night provides an excuse to cut loose! The celebration recalls our colonial past when sugar cane was king, and creativity abounds with indigenous art, craft, calypso, flower festivals, folk concerts and revelry at Foreday Morning. But it is Grand Kadooment - the climax of the festival - which generates the most heat, energy and colour!  The event is great fun for everyone, even if you’re watching the masqueraders from the sidelines and not “jumping” in a costumed band. Revellers, among whom are countless international celebrities, including our very own mega star, Rihanna, make their way through the streets in a kaleidoscope of colour to the Spring Garden Highway, where the party continues well into the night with more revelry, music, food and fireworks, set against the picturesque backdrop of Brighton beach.  

Food & Wine and Rum: Barbados is always a magnet for visitors from around the world, and every November it becomes the mecca for chefs of local, regional and international acclaim, who join with foodies of every description to celebrate the wide variety of epicurean delights for which the Barbados Food & Wine and Rum Festival is known. Festival-goers enjoy the best of international cuisine and cooking demonstrations by top chefs, including Food Network stars, Anne Burrell, Tyler Florence and Marcus Samuelsson - the latter of whom is a repeat guest who may well be on his way to becoming an honorary Bajan. 

Tom Colicchio, Chris Cosentino, Rob FeenieAnthony Giglio, Carla Hall, Craig Harding, Tim Love, Andrew Pern and  Ming Tsai, just to name a few,  have also made appearances at the festival, demonstrating their amazing culinary talents to appreciative audiences. 

Adding to the culinary experience are wine and rum experts, who are always on hand to showcase their respective beverages and demonstrate how they pair with the various epicurean treats on display.

Agrofest:  This is a unique agricultural exhibition, where farmers, craftsmen and agriculturalists display their goods and produce in a safe, family-friendly environment.  Held annually in Queen’s Park, in the capital city, Bridgetown, the exhibition usually attracts thousands of visitors, over three days, and is by far the biggest agriculture-based event in Barbados. The exhibition usually features over two hundred exhibits ranging from livestock and kitchen gardens, to renewable energy and craft, with healthy servings of food, bird shows, challenges for kids and culture non-stop!  Don't miss it!  

Oistins Fish Festival:  Not to be confused with the legendary Friday night fish fries at the Oistins Bay Garden, the annual Oistins Fish Festival comes off around Easter. It commemorates the signing of the Charter of Barbados, and celebrates the importance of fisheries and fisher folk to the island. With fish first on the menu, things get really fishy during the festival, with fish boning competitions, crab and boat racing competition, the climbing of the grease pole, stalls and games – just to name a few of the attractions. The festival has been going on since 1977 and almost 40 years later, there’s no stopping it now!  

Holetown Festival: This week-long annual festival on the west coast, which commemorates the landing of the first English Settlers in Barbados, usually kicks off with a re-enactment of that historic event.  It continues to generate steam throughout the week, with a Gospel explosion, a floodlit tattoo and an all-day street party on the final day, when the best of Barbadian art, craft, and food is served in abundance!  Festival-goers are also treated to a parade of dancers, marching bands, community groups and a stunning variety of classical cars - primed and polished to perfection. This alone will take you back in time, but never fear, non-stop action, music and dancing will draw you back to the colourful reality of the west coast! 

Sandy Lane Gold Cup: Not only is the Sandy Lane Gold Cup one of the biggest sporting events in Barbados, it is by far the most prestigious horseracing event in the Eastern Caribbean!  First sponsored by Cockspur Rum from its inception in 1982, the race has blossomed into a full-fledged event, complete with pomp, pageantry, marching bands and dancing girls, combining sport and wholesome entertainment for the whole family.  Sponsored by Sandy Lane since 1997, a series of events and activities, including polo matches, family days, golf tournaments, theatrical shows, street parades and fish fries has been introduced to generate excitement ahead of the annual race, which draws visitors and media from all over the world. 

Gospelfest: Considered to be the premier gospel festival in the Caribbean, Barbados’ Gospelfest is celebration intended to “help to shape the moral landscape of our nation, the region and the world.” Barbadians are a spiritual people, the majority of whom are of the Christian faith. Given the proliferation of churches across the island and the size of our church-going population, it’s no surprise that there is a festival of Christian worship in music, song, dance, mime and testimony. 

Usually held over a two-week period during the month of May, Gospelfest attracts many a-list Christian and Gospel entertainers from around the world, showcasing diverse genres of uplifting gospel music. The event carries all the flair and flavour you’d expect from any production in the Caribbean, and local artistes often share the stage with international acts for depth and diversity.  

Holders Season:  A local and international performing arts festival in Barbados, the Holders Season Performing Arts Festival showcases spell-binding musical and theatrical acts from a vast array of world renowned artistes. Held over the two-week period on the grounds in The Little Theatre at Holders between March and April, the performances run the gamut from jazz, blues and classical music to theatre and comedy. Founded in 1993, the festival has exploded in popularity over the years and is now a MUST for everyone who appreciates the performing arts. 

Reggae Festival:  Reggae parties, cruises, shows, dances and other events of major proportions make up the week in April that is the Barbados Reggae Festival. Undoubtedly the most popular and widely anticipated reggae event on the island, the festival brings together an impressive range of local, regional and international superstars of the Reggae music industry. 

Founded in 2004, the festival is still going strong and is instrumental in broadening the interest and appeal of reggae in its various forms.  As a major musical event on the island, it showcases a wide range of world-class international, regional and local entertainers and musicians, while attracting many visitors from around the world. 

Waterman Festival: Created and organized by Brian “Irie Man” “deAction Man” Talma, DeAction Barbados Waterman Festival has been staged since 2000 and is a bold and exciting initiative which merges the fishing and surfing cultures to form one beach culture.  There is no better spokesman or sportsman to advance this culture than Brian Talma, who is a former professional world ranking Windsurfer and enthusiastic watersports/beach culture activist. 

Held at the Silver Sands Beach, also referred to as Silver Rock’, ‘Round Rock’ or ‘De Action Beach,’ on the south coast, De Action Beach Waterman Festival attracts participants from throughout the Caribbean and around the world, providing a wholesome, fun environment for competitions in surfing, windsurfing, kitesurfing, swimming, fishing, stand up paddling and conch shell blowing. Art exhibitions, music and parties round off the total beach experience, which takes place over a 2-day period in March or April. Check it out! 

Run Barbados This is a long-distance running event.  A trail blazer since 1983, the event started with only a 10K and a marathon, both of which started and finished at the Bay Street Esplanade overlooking Carlisle Bay on the outskirts of our capital city Bridgetown. Since then, the road race, now the Powerade Run Barbados event has grown and now offers a 5k, a 10k, a midnight fun mile run and walk, a half-marathon, and a marathon to satisfy the appetite of our local runners as well as the faithful overseas athletes who make the annual pilgrimage to compete. Usually held around Barbados’ Independence time (November 30), the race is set to coincide with other holiday events for maximum participation and enjoyment. 

Rally Barbados: Rally Barbados is an international all-stage rally and has long been the Caribbean's premier annual international motor sport event. Starting out small in 1990 as a one-day event with only 30 local competitors, the Sol Rally Barbados Festival has grown significantly over the years and now attracts well over 100 local, regional and international crews and drivers. 

The Sol Rally Barbados Festival is a major contributor to the island's sports-tourism product and with more than 20 special stages spread across the island, the action takes place over one weekend. Organized by the Barbados Rally Club, the festival also includes a whole week of other activities – social and otherwise - featuring Scrutineering and the immensely popular Flow King of the Hill ‘shakedown.’ 

Barbados Golf Festival: There’s nothing quite like a day on the links and the Barbados Golf Festival provides the opportunity for golfers from various golf clubs around the island to spend several days teeing off to their hearts’ content! Competitions are organized for both male and female players from Barbados and the Caribbean. The festivals provide a mix of social golf with tournament golf and with a packed social programme, golfers and their partners can enjoy the events together. The “36-holes "RBC Golf Classic" and the Sir Garry Sobers Festival of Golf Championships are HUGE on the programme, which attracts scores of spectators. 

Barbados Hockey Festival: The Banks Barbados International Hockey Festival started in 1986 and is widely considered to be the biggest field hockey tournament in the Caribbean.  Attracting local, regional and international teams, the festival is usually staged over one week in August. The main venue for the festival and, indeed, hockey in Barbados, is the AstroTurf field and stadium located at the Garfield Sobers Sports Complex in the southern parish of St.  Michael, where dozens of spectators congregate for fun and sizzling competition among the hockey greats! 

NIFCA (The National Independence Festival of Creative Arts): NIFCA celebrates Barbados’ Independence through Bajan culture and the visual and performing arts.  

First introduced in 1973, NIFCA showcases the best of Barbadian talent, focusing the spotlight on original performances in drama, dance, music, literary, visual and culinary arts, photography and art & craft. The performances and exhibitions which comprise the event are judged, and Barbadians of all ages and from all walks of life take part. The festival provides an important opportunity for Barbadians – especially the youth – to embrace our local culture, develop creativity and a spirit of fair competition. The festival culminates with the Gala, which features the best of the presentations and performances staged over the period of the exhibition.