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Tips on celebrating Island festivals at home


As we head into the summer, we also head into festival season, and while international annual events like Crop Over Festival in Barbados and Carnival in Toronto are cancelled in 2020, that doesn’t mean it can’t be celebrated! We’ve pulled together the history of annual festivals in four distinct destinations – Barbados, Belize, The Islands of Tahiti and Miami, FL – as well as a few tips on celebrating Island festivals at home this year and prepare for future festival adventures!

Tips on celebrating Island festivals at home – Barbados Kadooment-Carnival Festival

BARBADOS www.visitbarbados.org

Crop Over Festival is a 200-year old tradition that was born out of the island’s colonial history and traditionally celebrates the end of sugar cane season. The six-week festival, which takes place from July-August, and celebrates Bajan culture to its fullest through lively parties, local craft markets, soca concerts and culinary delights. The height of Crop Over Festival is Grand Kadooment, which abounds with masqueraders and costumed bands. The celebrations continue into the night with more food, music and fireworks, all set against the backdrop of the picturesque Brighton Beach. This year, Grand Kadooment was slated to take place on August 3, 2020 with events leading up to the day.

Mas Bands are at the heart of this cultural celebration, where revelers celebrate with the loudest and most vibrant colours, feathers and creatively designed costumes! Designers, like Kevin Small, are endlessly passionate about Crop Over costume themes and designs – Kevin Small began designing costumes at 17 and is now one of Barbados’ best designers. The pride for Crop Over Festival is strong across the island and across the globe – you can learn more here and join in on the celebration with these suggestions: 

·         Celebrate and support Barbadian music with these Mixcloud Soca Playlists and DJ Private Ryan’s Soca Starter Playlist

·         Learn the quintessential Barbadian dance, the Wuk Up

·         Purchase a costume from popular Mas Band, Kontact, to prepare for next year (or to flaunt around the house or on Instagram)

Caye Caulker Lobster Festival


In June, San Pedro, Belize proudly celebrates the unique and delicious festival – Lobster Fest. The event that began as a community-wide celebration to honour the beginning of lobster season has now flourished into an internationally recognized event that draws in visitors to take part in week-long festivities leading up to the main event, the Block Party in Central Park.

Revelers receive a Lobster Fest Passport and collect stamps as they participate in events throughout the week with the hope of winning a hotel giveaway. The festival kicks-off with a Lionfish hunt, which serves sustainability purposes to prevent the depletion of the lobster population, and events throughout the week range from beachside barbeques to candlelit fine dining. The Block Party showcases local vendors and includes lobster-eating competitions, cultural music performances, the ‘biggest lobster catch’ competition and the Miss Lobster Festival. What makes Lobster Fest truly special is the people, as the festival brings visitors and local communities together and visitors return year after year to reconnect with the culture and people who so warmly embrace them. The 13th Annual Lobster Fest, originally slated to take place this year June 11 – 20, 2020, will take place in 2021 – learn more and follow along here.

Carnival is another celebration that takes place in September, a tradition that taps into the country’s Caribbean spirit. Locals and visitors celebrate together with colourful floats, extravagant costumes and punta and soca music on full blast. Following the all-day parade is an all-night party and outdoor concert. Learn more about Belize’s September festivities here.

Tahiti – Stéphane-Mailion Photography

THE ISLANDS OF TAHITIwww.tahititourisme.ca

The traditional Tahitian festival, known as Heiva, is celebrated every July in the capital city, Papeete. The Heiva is the Polynesian Celebration of Life and it is brimming with street parties, colourful dancers, canoe races and javelin throwing competitions. The festival showcases the islands’ unique heritage, art and cultural customs and it is celebrated variously across the five archipelagos. The larger the island, the larger the celebration and visitors can enjoy the Polynesian festivities throughout the entire month of July.

Heiva costumes are handcrafted from native island materials, including roots, seeds, coconut shells and lots of flowers, a testament to the Polynesian culture’s veneration for nature. Of all the Heiva competitions, the dance competition is very revered and participants take pride in their craft, practicing months in advance. The festival also celebrates the physical strength of Tahitians through the Mr. Tahiti sports competition.

Join in on the festivities this year virtually with Heiva Digital 2020 and learn more about The Islands of Tahiti’s Heiva here, with events taking place from July 8 – 18, 2020.

Tips on celebrating Island festivals at home – Aerial View of Miami South Beach

MIAMI www.miamiandbeaches.com

Carnival in Miami can proudly hold its own alongside Caribbean and South American celebrations and was slated to take place this year from October 8 – 12, 2020. Every year in October the Miami-Dade County Fairgrounds welcomes locals and visitors to celebrate the cultural blend of Caribbean colours and cultures that permeates the city. Miami Carnival boasts creative costumes, steel drums, mas bands, soca artists and food vendors with events leading up to the main day on Sunday. 

J’ouvert is a massive street party that kicks off the festivities, catch a glimpse of last year’s J’ouvert here. Revelers adorned in the most colourful and vibrant costumes compete for the coveted King and Queen titles, while steel bands complete for the crown of Panorama Campion. Miami’s Carnival celebration is a unique celebration that blends the cultural traditions from islands such as Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Saint Lucia and more into one carnival narrative. While celebrating in Miami-Dade County Fairgrounds this year is uncertain, you can tune into last year’s Parade of the Bands here and celebrate with soca playlists from last year’s festivities here.

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