Get Clients Over to Barbados for the Crop Over Festival
Every Caribbean island has a Carnival, but there’s no Carnival quite like Crop Over in Barbados.
And because it was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic, Bajans are even more eager to share their most joyous celebration of the year with visitors this summer.
Most Caribbean Carnivals, such as Trinidad’s famously hedonistic party, take place around Lent, the same as Mardi Gras. Crop Over, however, has different roots — as the name implies, it originated as a festival to mark the harvesting of the sugar-cane crop, dating back to the days when slaves labored on large sugar plantations on the island. As a result, it takes place annually in August, not the Easter season.
Crop Over 2021 culminates in a massive, soca- and calypso-fueled costume parade called the Grand Kadooment on Aug. 2, but its preceded by a solid six weeks of festivities, including the traditional crowning of a Crop Over king and queen, the Cohobblopot party where Kadooment band members strut in their festive costumes, the all-night, mud-splatted Foreday celebration, a kids Kadooment parade, and competitions among local calypso and steel-pan bands.
That means that visitors to Barbados have virtually the entire summer to get at least a taste of Crop Over, but taking part in the Grand Kadooment is the true bucket-list experience. Fortunately, it’s not too hard to arrange. Locals and tourists alike are welcome to watch the parade as it begins in the National Stadium and winds through Bridgetown and along the coastal Spring Garden highway to Brighton Beach. Spectators can drink in the music, dancing and vibrantly colored costumes while straining for a peek at Rihanna, a native Bajan who returns to her home island for Crop Over nearly
The real coup, however, is to march or “jump” in the parade itself. Trying to sneak into the Grand Kadooment would be a big mistake — it’s a crime punishable by fines and/or prison under Barbados law. But the 20-odd costumed bands that take part in the parade — with names like Zulu, Krave, offer packages that may just include costumes or also bundle in food and drink and admission to pre- and post-parties called “fetes.”
Costumes run the gamut from conservative to quite revealing, and prices vary depending upon complexity: Backline costumes are priced lowest, with Midline and Frontline costumes rising in cost.
Visitors can preregister to join both Kadooment and Foreday Morning bands. Blue Box Cart is among the tourist-friendly Kadooment bands that offer packages; their website opens the last week of April for guests to view the costumes and packages, as well as book online. SoCo Hotel, a 24-room boutique hotel in Bridgetown, offers Crop Over packages that include lodging and entry into a Kadooment band.
Got clients who can’t make it to Crop Over? A festival focused on Barbados’ most famous export – rum – isn’t a bad second option. The annual Barbados Food & Rum Festival takes place in October, and since Barbados makes a strong claim of being the birthplace of rum, there’s a barrel full of fun activities to indulge in during the celebration.
Prominent island mixologists concoct cocktails to go along with dishes created by Barbados’ talented chefs, and the weekend-long festival includes a night party in the fishing village of Oistins, dine-arounds, and a closing party that mixes rum, canapes, and polo. Island visitors also can take the opportunity to tour some of Barbados’ famous rum distilleries, including Mount Gay, St. Nicholas Abbey, and Foursquare. Both the Hilton Barbados and Sandals Barbados offer Food and Rum Festival packages.
Even hotels that don’t offer packages still may craft activities that incorporate festival activities. For example, Elegant Hotels Group’s Crystal Cove resort offers a St. Nicholas Abbey rum tour, Heritage Night with a local calypso king, steel pan classes, Rum Shop Initiation class to learn the art of drinking rum and playing dominoes, a Kadooment Experience to watch the last jump up party, and an on-property Family Kadooment Fair.
Turtle Beach likewise gives guests the opportunity to sign up to watch the Grand Kadooment parade, while the Waves Hotel and Spa provides transfers to Bridgetown for the festivities and also does tours to St. Nicholas Abbey and Oistins.
Oistins, which is home to a popular Friday night fish fry year-round, also hosts an annual fish festival in April.
Other major events that may appeal to your clients include: The Barbados Reggae Festival (Apr. 23-27), Gospelfest (May 17-24), Dive Fest (July 3-12), the Barbados International (Field) Hockey Festival (August), and the annual Open Water Festival (November), which features ocean swimming races of 3.3, 5 and 10 km.