In early May 2016, the Bahamas celebrated our second annual Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival. Some of you may already be familiar with our Junkanoo festivals that are held in the winter. You will be happy to know that this new event doesn’t differ too much from what you’re used to.
In all honesty, I have never attended Carnival in another country so I can not compare what is typically done elsewhere to what we are currently doing in the Bahamas. However, I can say that quite a bit of locals seem excited to have a new activity in which they can partake and have fun. The Carnival parties (known as fetes) are endless!!!!!! Hosted mostly by private groups or sponsors, these events usually occur in the weeks leading up to Carnival as a way to build the public’s interest and of course, have a great time. Many of the events can go well into the early hours of the morning with some of the functions actually STARTING after midnight and ending at sunrise!
Additionally, there is a music competition which allows local artists to showcase their talents as they compete for the new Carnival song of the season (as well as $10,000 :)). It’s a pretty sweet deal for serious artists looking for some major publicity. As a music connoisseur, this is personally my favorite part of all the festivities. I only really look forward to attending the concerts and getting to see some of my favorite local entertainers. Below, I’ve posted some clips from the official Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival Facebook page for anyone who is interested in checking out some of the music which debuted this season.
Although I must admit, my interest in the overall aspect of Carnival is very limited. I’m not a big partier and you certainly won’t find me dancing on anybody’s street in my favourite sparkly bra. While this is certainly a fun idea for some, this particular festival has always been very popular in OTHER Caribbean countries and I’m still trying to figure out how the government is trying to blend this with traditional Bahamian culture. However, that’s a story for another day (sigh). Let’s turn our attention to the main event; the Road Fever Parade!
This is the part of Carnival season that most people are excited for mainly because it allows a high level of public participation. Persons would have signed up to join Carnival groups weeks (and sometimes months) in advance. Each group would have their own theme, music and style of costume. The parade begins around 10:00 a.m. and goes on for several hours as the groups travel a few miles until they arrive at their final destination at the Carnival Village. Of course, in true party fashion, there’s nothing but great music and cold drinks along the way. I can personally say as a bystander, I simply went with my sunscreen and a bottle of water as I patiently waited for the groups to pass my street. However, within minutes I had people offering me free beers and tourists asking me to show them the local dance moves. Although we bystanders may not be registered participants in the actual parade, everyone shared the same level of excitement and the same feel-good spirit.
Will I be registering for next year’s parade? Probably not. However, I truly believe that this colourful festival will eventually find its position within Bahamian culture and I look forward to seeing its transformation in the years to come.