Crop Over 2016 – More Than Just a Carnival!

Patriotic Barbadian Terri Mayers explains why your next trip to Barbados has to be for the Crop Over Festival!

“We have already been to a Carnival. If you have been to one, you have been to all – there is not much difference.”

This stranger’s words cut through the chatter of the crowded departure lounge at Miami International Airport. I felt an involuntary spasm of indignation and tried hard to suppress it. MIA is not a place to start an argument!

The offending statement had been spoken by a man sitting a few seats down from me. His female companion seemed excited about the prospect of visiting Barbados and experiencing our festival for the first time. On the other hand, he seemed less enthusiastic.

“Excuse me?”

It was only when they turned and looked at me in surprise that I realized I had said those words aloud. My usually shy persona had been replaced by a fiercely patriotic 100% Bajan one. I proceeded to passionately tell them why Crop Over is really not like any other Carnival.
am pleased to admit by the time I was finished they also agreed with me that any festival that has so many aspects to it has to be more than just a Carnival.

It definitely is “Sweet fuh days!”

More Than Just a Carnival

The truth is, most bajans will protest loudly when you refer to their beloved summer festival as a ‘Carnival’. You see, although Crop Over does have some of the similarities of other Carnivals, there is a huge difference. More than simply a street party or music show, Crop Over is the celebratory union of the island’s British and West Indian heritage, a festival of local talent creative arts, culture and music.

The history of Crop over can be traced back as far as 1798, when it began as a celebration of the end of the sugar cane harvest on the plantations. This was signaled by the delivery of the last canes in gaily-decorated carts pulled by donkeys.

The verhardingy last cart featured a cane trash effigy called Mr. Harding, who represented the hard times that would be experienced in between the crops, when work was hard to come by. He was ceremonially burnt and then the dancing, drinking and other festivities would begin.

 

This practice lost some steam in the 1940s but was revived and revamped in 1974. In 2016 the Crop Over Festival spanned the entire eight weeks of summer! It is jam-packed with parties (AKA fetes), limes, soca competitions, arts & crafts exhibitions, cultural events and, of course, music but it still all starts with the delivery of the last canes.

Crop Over has something for everyone, from the young to the young at heart, from the history buff to the party animal. Here is what you can look forward to when you come to experience Crop Over for yourself.

Religion

As one will find throughout Barbados, religion plays a crucial part in everything and the Crop Over festival is no different. The Opening Ceremony includes religious aspects from the Baptist Church. In fact, it is well known that within every district, village or neighbourhood can be found at least one church. (It is also a well-known fact that the same can be said of rum shops, but I digress.)

Barbados Landship

Ever seen a ship on land? We don’t mean a shipwreck either. The Barbados Landship actually mimics a naval vessel on water, including its movements through the waters. These intricate steps include one its most popular routines, The Maypole.

Tuk Band

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The Tuk Band is a feature of the fusion of our African heritage and British influence. The band is reminiscent of regimental bands of the British military and symbolic African characters. The ‘Tuk’ or ‘Rukatuk’ music is used by the Barbados Landship when performing their dance manoeuvres.

The Maypole

This is symbolic of our African traditions with roots in slavery and the Middle Passage. The members perform an intricate dance of plaiting long colored ribbons around a pole, and then reversing the process.

Culture & Heritage

You can sample the best Bajan cuisine, view arts and crafts, enjoy guided tours of the museum and enjoy fashion and entertainment at the Crop Over Craft Works. The Visual Arts festival is also a must for the art enthusiast as you can view an exhibition of the island’s finest talents in Visual Arts.

Other cultural events that will allow you to learn about Barbados, Crop Over and its rich history include:

  • Crop Over Read In is a wonderful evening of poetry, music, storytelling and even a children’s creative writing workshop.
  • Crop Over Festival Thanksgiving Service usually takes place at one of the island’s many beautiful churches where thanks and praises are given for a successful Crop Over season.
  • Pan Fusion is a jazz and steel pan concert held under the stars in the grounds of the Prime Minister’s official residence. And if you prefer sunshine with your steel pan music, Pan Pun de Sand is an explosion of pan music and entertainment held on Brandons beach.

Kid Zone

For the younger participants the Junior Kadooment Parade (aka Kiddies Kadooment), held a week before the final climax of the festival, is a 1 km street festival and parade that allows the children (under 16 years) to dance and show off their beautiful costumes.

Furthermore, nearly all of the cultural events feature a Kid Zone with play parks and other activities for kids. You can also take their kids to see the new generation of soca and kaiso performers as they compete for the title of Junior Monarch in a kids only singing competition.

Foreday Morning

If you are looking to party nonstop, you have come to the right place. During the Festival there is literally a party every single night. Whether it’s an all inclusive fete, a bacchanal session, drinks-free lime or a cruise, we’ve got you covered!

It’s a wonder how any work gets done during this festival! During the last weekend (or ‘las lap’ as it’s called) things get even more crazy, with some fetes going well into the next day.

The Caribbean is notorious for its scorching summer sun and for this reason the Foreday Morning Jump Up is becoming increasingly popular. For this party, you exchange sunscreen and sun tan lotion for paint and mud.
foredayThe parade starts around 11:00 pm and finishes around 8:00 the next morning. (Well, truthfully, that depends on the number of bands parading and how long it takes the revellers to wine, grind and dance their bodies down the 3km route to Spring Garden Highway!?)

Grand Kadooment

The Crop Over Festival comes to a climax on the first Monday in August with the carnival/costume party/street parade that is Grand Kadooment. (Kadooment is a 100% Bajan term meaning fun, merriment and good times for all.)

Masquerading in costumes is an African tradition, wherein villagers paraded in masks and costumes in the belief that this would bring good luck to the village and ward off any evil.

Grand Kadooment begins at the National Stadium, on the outskirts of Bridgetown, with masqueraders parading in front of judges and spectators in one giant street party. They are grouped into bands, each with it’s own costume design that depict some aspect of Bajan heritage or current events. This year Barbados is celebrating 50 years of Independence and this was heavily reflected. One of the bands, Fifth Element’s theme was ‘50 and We Golden.’

It is a tough job to select one band as the best, with all of the creativity, colour and splendor on display, but this year’s top band award went to Gwyneth Squires’ 400 strong band and her creation, ‘The Spirit of our Nationhood.’

After leaving the National Stadium the parade continues along a 9 km route to the Spring Garden Highway, not far from downtown Bridgetown and the Cruise Ship terminal.

(Don’t worry, it’s mostly downhill!)

crop-over-2The Highway will already be buzzing with the stalls, bars and events of the Bridgetown Market, which begins at 10:00am. So if the Kadooment parade seems too long for you, this is a less strenuous alternative!

It’s right next to Brandons beach, so you have the option to take a dip in the beautiful Caribbean Sea.

For me, nothing beats Grand Kadooment. with its spectacular splashes of color, smiling faces and imaginative costumes illuminated in the bright sunlight. And everyone – even those watching from the sidelines – is caught up in the excitement and joie de vivre. How can you not be inspired by the infectious music and the camaraderie of fellow band members and spectators?

Year of Firsts

Even though Crop Over has been around for centuries, it is still evolving and 2016 was a first for many things:

  • The Pic o de Crop Finals, a calypso competition in which artists battle for the crown of “Calypso Monarch”, was won by a woman after 28 years. Although man normally dominate the competition, this year Queen Aziza reigned supreme.
  • The Foreday Morning Jump Up was given a night to itself. Traditionally, Foreday didn’t start until the Pic o de Crop Finals were finished, which usually meant that the parade was delayed. This year the organisers realised the importance of Foreday Morning and Pic o de Crop being separate, and held the Finals on Saturday instead of the traditional Friday night.
  • Two days of Grand Kadooment! After wishing for it, the party animals finally got their dream of two days of Kadooment. The second day took place on the other side of the island on the East Coast. Here the water is off limits for swimming, so revellers opted to cool down in the pool or with premium drinks instead.

The last first, which was a bit of a bummer, was that Rihanna didn’t make it back home for her usual wukkup/twerking session. Guess she had to work work work work work work!

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Sweet Fuh Days!

July and August are not the most popular months for North American and European tourists to visit Barbados. The weather is hot and humid, and there’s the small risk of a tropical storm or hurricane. But if you want to explore the heritage and culture of this wonderful island, to sample the infectious rhythms of calypso, soca and steel pan music and experience the excitement, colour and splendour of a costumed street party, then book your ticket for Crop Over 2017.

It will be an experience you’ll never forget!

Crop Over 2017 will take place in July and August, with Kadooment Day on the 7th of August. For more information visit the National Cultural Foundation of Barbados website.

(Photos Terri Mayers/Peter Marshall)

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