FESTIVALS IN THE BAHAMAS
By Francis Fawkes, Department of Culture
THE BAHAMAS JUNKANOO FESTIVAL
Time of Year: December, January, and July
Junkanoo is the most popular folk art expression in The Bahamas. It was a Pan Caribbean Festival that was held by the slaves inThe Bahamas during the 16th and 17th centuries. There is a huge controversy about the origin of Junkanoo. The most accepted one is that the word “Junkanoo” comes from the name John Canoe, who is an African prince and also slave trader operating on the Gold Coast, Africa in the seventeenth century.
Today Junkanoo is a street parade that mainly occur in The Bahamas and in The Turks and Caicos Islands. The parade comprises three aspects of the performing arts - music, dance, and art and craft. These occurrences are every Boxing Day (December 26) and New Year's Day (1st January). “Junkanoo Summer Festival” (July) has also been added and “Feel-the-Rush” in Grand Bahama.
The largest Junkanoo parade takes place in Nassau, the capital. There are additionally Junkanoo parades in both Miami, in June and Key West, in October, where the local Afro-American populations have their roots in the Bahamas.
THE ANDROS CRAB FEST
Time of year: beginning of June
The annual Crab Fest held in June at Fresh Creek, Andros has boosted the local economy, according to a reliable source in Central Andros.
The event attracts thousands of people for the weekend festivities, majority of coming from the capital of New Providence. Travelling to the island is by ferryboat trips and charter.
Androsians have developed crab industries. When the crabs are in great numbers or are "walking," they are caught and kept in pens and are fed coconuts, vegetables and berries. Some astute Androsians keep their crabs for up to a year. Out of season a white crab can fetch as much as $5 each and the smaller black crab, $4. The three-day Craft Fest has pledged to promote heritage tourism to a much greater extent.
FOX HILL DAY FESTIVAL
Time of year: 2nd Monday in August
When we think of this festival, the word “Freedom” comes to mind. This celebration which is the oldest is held around the second weekend in August. It is deemed to be the largest festival next to Junkanoo. And it is linked to the abolition of slavery. This festival hosts cultural events such as a band performances and the Fox Hill Congo Junkanoo group. Tasty Bahamian dishes and sweets are available and other entertainment. An important part of the event in the festival is the Emancipation Day Memorial Service
BAHAMAS INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL (BIFF)
Time of year: December
The Bahamas International Film Festival is not the typical island "off-season" event. This event begins in the month of December and includes screenings, panel discussions, and gala events.
The Bahamas International Film Festival is a world-renowned film festival that attracts Hollywood celebrities like Nicolas Cage and Sean Connery. Up-and-coming directors can also come to showcase their films.
THE ELEUTHERA PINEAPPLE FESTIVAL
Time of year: first week of June
In the first week of June, Gregory Town on the island of Eleuthra comes to life with this festival. The festivities last are held over four days.
The local Tourist Office introduced the event in 1988 in Gregory Town. The pineapple is the symbol of hospitality to the Bahamians. The pineapple’s symbolism has its roots in a tradition of Northern seafaring captains of old. When the captains arrived home they would place a pineapple on their gatepost to let everyone know that they were home. At that time, the pineapple industry had a very high rate with exports of over 50,000 pineapples per year. The pineapples from Eleuthera started the pineapple industry in Jensen beach, Florida.
The pineapple festival attracts over 5000 people every year. For many it is chance to return home for a weekend and have a family reunion.
THE E. CLEMENT BETHEL NATIONAL ARTS FESTIVAL
Time of year:
The E. Clement Bethel National Arts Festival has grown over the years. The Festival movement started out in the 1959 with Lady Arthur, wife of the then royal governor. Two years later in 1961, the family islands were included. At this particular time, Mrs. Meta Davis Cumberbatch, a concert pianist of Trinidadian extraction, established the Arts and Craft Festival to compliment the Music Festival.
In 1971, E Clement Bethel, the first Director of Culture, incorporated both the Music Festival and the Bahamas Arts and Crafts Exhibition into the programmes. In 1972, the Drama Festival was added. Today, this entity has expanded to include the visual and the performing arts with a re-addition of the National Arts and Crafts Exhibition at the Central Bank.
There are a number of successful spin-off events as well. There is the gospel concert, a final concert, the National Pride Day Performance and the grand Independence Day celebration. Also included in this is a workshop for a select number of festival winners associated with the Washington Jazz Institute in Washington D.C.
THE BAHAMAS COCONUT FESTIVAL
Time of year:
In 1998, the first Coconut Festival took place. Its originator was Cathy Laing, a descendant of Pelican Point, Grand Bahama. The festival was intended to be a homecoming event similar to Eleuthera's Pineapple Festival and Andros' Crab Fest. Seeing how the settlement was abundant in coconut, it seemed only fitting.
During this time, culinary dishes, drinks, and craft items are prepared using the coconut. There is a coconut barking contest and along with dancing to rhythm of Bahamian musicians.
Visit our Events to get festival dates for the current year.
|Time of Year||Festival||Island|
|October||Conch Festiva||Mars Bay, Andros|
|December||Festival of Lights Boat Parade||Montague Bay, New Providence|