The largest summer carnival in the Caribbean is Barbados’s Crop Over, a five-week festival held every July. This event has its roots in the eighteenth-century. In the 1780s, the island of Barbados was the largest producer of sugar in the world. At the end of the sugar cane harvest with the “crop over,” the island’s inhabitants held a huge festival to celebrate their hard work in bringing in the crop. The event continued until the 1940s when it was discontinued. In 1974, the Crop Over festival was resurrected.
The festival begins with the Ceremonial Delivery of the Last Canes and the crowning of the King and Queen of the Festival – the most productive male and female cane cutters of the season. Folk concerts and art and photographic exhibitions are integral parts of the festival, highlighting Barbadian history and culture as well as the artistic talents of Bajans. Also, Bridgetown Market opens stalls selling local foods, beverages, and local arts and crafts. Live calypso music and tuk bands play as people browse through the stalls. Tuk bands are roving bands that play a variety of rhythms using kettle drums, bass drums, and penny whistles.
There is also a huge show, called Cohobblopot, which features the most popular calypsonians and bands displaying their stunning costumes and performing to packed audiences. The calypsonians are organized into “tents” (Conquerers, Untouchables, House of Soca, Pioneers, Stray Cats, etc.) and they compete for several prizes and titles, including the Party Monarch, the Road March Monarch, and the Pic-O-De-Crop Monarch. These competitions are followed by the Fore-Day Morning Jump-Up.
The carnival culminates with the Grand Kadooment, which is held on Kadooment Day, a national holiday on the first Monday in August. Elaborately costumed bands parade along the streets accompanied by revelers and the sounds of calypso. The designer with the best costume is named Designer of the Year. The children are not left out as they can participate in the Kiddies Kadooment, donning beautiful costumes and joining their friends in a band to parade before the judges of the competition. At the end of the parade route, there is more music, food, and fun. The festival ends with a huge fireworks display.
The fireworks display is preceded by the burning of the Mr. Harding effigy. A life-size doll, representing Mr. Harding, who was a ruthless plantation owner, is carried into the square. It is a symbol of the cruel treatment many slaves suffered earlier on the sugar cane plantations. The parade-goers stuff it with rags, straw or sugar cane debris, set it on fire, and pelt it with stones. When Mr. Harding is burned, people set off firecrackers, watch a fireworks display and sing and dance long into the night (or next morning).
For more information and Crop Over events calendar, see http://www.barbados.org/cropclnd.htm