Where Trinidad has Carnival and the Bahamas has Junkanoo, Barbados has Crop Over. Two months of non-stop celebrations, parties, music, dancing and art where the usually calm and sophisticated island known as ‘little England’ throws off any pretensions of restraint and just lets go in a miasma of colour, sound and rum.
Dating back as far as1688, Crop Over was the traditional celebration on the plantations of the end of the sugar cane harvest. Over time, as the island’s sugar industry declined, so did the festival until it had all but disappeared by the 1940s, before being spectacularly revived in 1974 as a vivid celebration of Bajan culture. Since then it has gone from strength to strength, getting bigger and bolder every year and attracting visitors from across the globe.
Starting in June, and lasting until the first Monday in August there is plenty to enjoy, so here is our guide to the top 5 events to look out for to get the most out of your Crop Over experience:
1 / Foreday Morning
This night-time street party signals the start of the final weekend of the festival. Revellers cover themselves and each other liberally in anything from paint to cocoa, mud to coloured powder, whilst dancing, or “Wukkin Up”, to the hypnotic rhythm of Bajan Soca. Starting at 1.30am in the cool of the night and running until the sun comes up it provides a unique atmosphere of bacchanalian excess where you’ll find yourself dancing with blissed-out strangers and the only rule is that you have to have fun.
2 / Booze Cruise
While there are countless Soca fetes (parties) taking place on beaches and boats across the island during the Crop Over festivities, the Booze Cruise is the one not to miss. As the name suggests, this boisterous trip involves both local party aficionados and tourists, large quantities of Mount Gay rum and impromptu performances from the cream of the Caribbean music scene. And when you’ve get overwhelmed by the partying, just pop over the side for a cooling dip in the sea.
3 / Pic-O-De-Crop
One of the two major concert events during Crop Over, Pic-O-De-Crop is where local calypsonians compete to be crowned Pic-O-De-Crop Calypso Monarch. Held at the world-famous Kensington Oval cricket ground, immediately before the Foreday Mornings celebrations, the Calypso rhythms are cut with a large dose of satirical social commentary, as local artists take a swipe at everything from the Bajan political scene to economic hardship and recessional woes.
4 / Bridgetown Market
The biggest street fair of the festival, Bridgetown market is held over two days and is a vision of brightly coloured and meticulously presented stalls showcasing the best local art, craft, jewellery, fashion and the freshest of local food. The tantalising aromas mix with the sound of steel pan competitions creating a uniquely festive atmosphere in which to shop.
5 / Grand Kadooment
Kadooment Day marks the final huzzah for the Crop Over, so if you can only visit one event, this is the one to choose. It’s a grand street parade where revellers try to out do each other with the outrageousness of their costume, dancing their way to the finale at Spring Park to the syncopated beats of Bajan Soca and Calypso. To play mas (participate in the parade) you need to join a band, which will issue you with a costume and, more likely than not, unlimited drinks and you can bear witness to the usually dignified Bajans let loose with wild abandon.