Barbados Crop Over Festival – A 300 year old Bajan Celebration

Crop Over in Barbados is the most anticipated event of the year! It is a whole month of celebrating with parades, parties and live music. You haven’t lived until you have experienced the carnival spirit that is felt in Barbados during Crop Over!

July 31st, 2019

Monday, 5th August 6th, 2019

Days to start

What is Crop Over?

crop over barbados festival

They say there are four official seasons in the Caribbean: cricket, carnival, crop over and Christmas! What is crop over? Well Crop Over is the most culturally significant festival of Barbados. For the Bajans, this 300 year old tradition hallmarked the end of the sugar cane growing season. Crop Over is a celebration of Barbados heritage, culture, music, dance, food and art. It is about embracing and celebrating life!

Crop Over, being the premier event of the year in Barbados, attracts over 100k people from all over the world! The sense of unity and overarching themes of freedom is what attracts people far and wide, who come to witness the signs and sounds of Barbados in full swing! The festival even has its own megastar ambassador Rihanna who joins the colourful mases celebrating crop over.

Where is Crop Over?

Crop Over takes place in Barbados which is a 21-by-14 mile Caribbean Island paradise! Barbados is located is located in the North Atlantic Ocean and is the easternmost island in the Lesser Antilles in the West Indies.

The majority of the celebrations take place in Bridgetown which is the capital of Barbados and the epicentre of the island. Most of the big events will take place at the National Stadium. During the celebrations Spring Gardens is transformed into a carnival hub and hosts hundreds of street vendors and market stalls selling food, drink, arts, crafts, clothing, jewellery and more.

When is Crop Over?

Crop Over Festival spreads out over a 12 week period from the month of May through to August. Whist this is not the official start of the festival there are loads of pre-carnival events that run until Grand Kadooment in August. Official Crop Over season is July-August.

The main celebrations for Crop Over occur during the first weekend of August with the biggest day being Grand Kadooment Day which will take place on Monday, 5th August 2019. This marks the end of Crop Over season.

What is the History of Crop Over?

crop over barbados festival

Crop Over which was once called “Harvest Home” is one of the oldest celebrations in the western hemisphere! The origins of Crop Over are traced back centuries to when Barbados was the world’s largest producer of sugar. Crop Over began back in 1687 on sugar cane plantations during slavery. It began as a way to celebrate the end of the sugar cane crop!

The last of the season’s crop would be brought into the mill yard and decorated with beautiful flowers like bougainvillea and hibiscuses. The first cart was usually led by a woman dressed in a white dress with head tie of freshly picked flowers and was accompanied by various sugar cane workers call carrying the final loads of cane.

The last cart would carry ‘Mr Harding’ a cart with trash stuff pants and a coat. ‘Mr Harding’ symbolised the hard time between sugar crops when employment was low and money was scare.

The parade would circle around the mil yard about four times while an enthusiastic crowd would gather to view the decorations and sing and dance together. The parade would end with the burning of ‘Mr Harding” to symbolise hope that the rough times would not be too rough or hard!

The festival was disbanded after WWII because of the harsh effects the war had on Barbados’s sugar industry. In an effort to fill the void left by the absence of the celebration the Junior Chamber of Commerce began to host an annual carnival featuring parades, mas bands and calypso contests! It was terminated in 1964 only to be revived again in 1974.

What traditions were preserved from the original Crop Over? The Crop Over traditions preserved included the singing, drinking, dancing and eating competitions. The most notable is having a ‘king’ and ‘queen’ of the crop. As well as a heavy focus of Calypso music, which is a social and political commentary over a political commentary.

How to they celebrate Crop Over?

crop over barbados festival

Crop Over the premier celebration of Barbados is a tradition and a celebration that recalls the island’s colonial past when sugar cane was the king. Crop Over highlights the culture and history of Barbados as well as the artistic talents of the Bajans.

Creativity is abound and the celebration is filled with lots of music, dance, local arts & crafts, folk concerts, art and photographic exhibitions, calypso, street parties, merrymaking, local food, Barbadian rum and plenty of revelry! 

The festival kicks off with the Opening Gala and the ceremony of the Last Canes takes place. This is also when the festival King and Queen of the Crop are crowned, an accolade handed out to the male and female cane cutters with the most productive output of the season, this ceremony is about acknowledging and rewarding hard work and effort.

Crop Over is jam-packed with events starting as early as May with the famous Community Cavalcades a series of musical and entertainment shows, showcasing local talent. Each week, the outdoor concert Cavalcades travel to different parishes on the island and give people the opportunity to participate in the festivities.

Of course the climax of the festival is Grand Kadooment which is when the epic masquerade parade is held. This day is fun for everyone regardless of whether your jumping or not and generates loads of energy, heat and colour!

The 2019 Crop Over Events Calendar!

crop over barbados festival

crop over barbados festival

crop over barbados festival

crop over barbados festival

The Big Crop Over Weekend!

The Big Crop Over Weekend is the last weekend that leads up to Grand Kadooment Day. This is when the biggest and most popular events take place. The finale of Crop Over are said to be the most exciting of the year as the local Bajans say: “Crop Over it sweet fuh days!”

  • Friday, 2nd August, 2019: Straight after the Pic-O-De-Crop Finals is when the Foreday Morning Jump Upkicks off and lasts well into the early hours of Saturday morning. This an event filled with lots of revelry. After the Foreday Morning Jam many hit the beach for a sunrise beach party.
  • Saturday, 3rd August, 2019: For those that still have lots of energy this is when Bridgetown Market starts, which runs for 3-days and is the biggest cultural street fair in the Caribbean.
  • Sunday, 4th August, 2019: This is when Crop Over Cohobblopot takes place. It is one of the biggest and most exciting events of Crop Over!
  • Monday, 5th August, 2019: This is Grand Kadooment Day! Today is when carnival comes to Barbados! The highlight of Crop Over this is when a spectacular daytime street carnival & parade occurs, and also when the Tune-Of-The-Cropwhich is the Road March Song is judged.

Bridgetown Market

Bridgetown Market is the biggest street fair of the festival that is on the last weekend of Crop Over season. Bridgetown Market fills the entire length of Spring Garden Highway which is converted into a hub of bustling activity with hundreds of colourful stalls and kiosks.

At Bridgetown Market you will find lots of locally manufactured products like hand-made jewellery, clothes, arts and crafts. You can enjoy live entertainment like the Tuk Band, the Barbados Landship, stilt walking, steel pan bands, stilt walking and dance groups. In addition to the entertainment there are a variety of tasty local food and drinks.

Calypso – Pic-O-De-Crop

Calypso music and Calypso competitions are one of the most important parts of Crop Over. The airwaves and sound systems are filled with calypso music. Another highlight are the local Calypso Tents. Calypsonians compete for several prizes and titles, including Party Monarch, Road March Monarch, Sweet Soca Monarch, and the Pic-O-De-Crop Monarch.

Calypsonians and comedians can be seen in live in a bunch of different adult and junior Calypso Tents located all over the island. It is in these calypso tents are where you will hear controversial social commentary songs that won’t make it onto the airwaves. Every performer is judged on their commentary or party songs to be eligible for the Pic-O-De-Crop and Party Monarch competitions.

The Pic-O-De-Crop Semi-Finals is the first competition to feature social commentary and is held over several nights. Then eight finalists will then come together on the last Friday night before Grand Kadooment day for the Pic-O-De-Crop Finals where the Calypso Monarch is crowned. Expect to hear some cutting social commentary.

Another popular event is the Soca Royale which is not to be missed! This sees the most popular party songs from the airwaves and tents judged for the title of Sweet Soca Monarch and Party Monarch.

banner booking carnivals

Cohobblopot

The Cohobblopot stage show is another do not miss event of Crop Over! Cohobblopot is local slang for “a stew made from a variety of ingredients.” In this case the mixture is all things carnival! Cohobblopot is a big carnival-like affair that showcases the hottest music from Barbados and the Caribbean.

There will also be dance acts, the King and Queen of the Mas Bands will parade. Kadooment bands put showcase their elaborate and stunning costumes. There is mouth-watering local food and drink offered, all in the one location and all on the one night!

Fore Day Morning Jump

crop over barbados festival

Straight after the Pic-0-De-Crop Finals on is another top-rated Crop Over event, the Fore Day Morning Jump! Signalling the start of Crop Over, Foreday Morning is essentially what other Caribbean Carnivals call J’Ouvert. Similar to J’Ouvert in this street party revellers also get covered in paint, mud, powder or water, everyone is a target and no shirt stays clean!

Foreday Monday has an electric atmosphere and over 20,000 people participate in the event! It usually kicks off around 1am and lasts until the wee hours of the morning, essentially till sunrise. Thousands of party goers parade behind music trucks blasting soca and calypso music.

The parade route is shorter than Kadooment Day (only 3km) and begins in Bridgetown, continues along Princess Alice Highway and finishes at Spring Garden Highway.

To participate in Foreday Monday you must join a band. Most bands offer pre-paid packages which may include drinks, a costume, food, paint, power and other accessories. The more popular bands include Chocolate Army, Colorz, Spektrum, Flair, Native, Caesars Army, Dirty Dozen J’ouvert and Lynx.

Foreday Monday parade is the opposite of Grand kadooment. Kadooment is very glamourous with expensive costumes and Foreday sees simpler costumes worn because people get covered in paint. Everyone parties at Foreday Monday regardless of age or ethnicity, it is essentially a party without division.

Finishing off the parade you can watch the sun come up and dance under a water hose at the home to Foreday Morning’s after party – the Oval. There is literally an entire stadium full of people dancing together. It is an exciting taste of what is to come during the finale of Crop Over and is certainly one of its most exciting events!

Crop Over Fetes

What is a fete? Fetes are essentially the carnival parties! But honestly to call them parties is a bit of an understatement! They are for the most part they are elaborate open-air extravaganzas that often have musical performances and free-flowing drinks and food. Crop Over is similar to Trinidad Carnival where both day and night is filled with one fete or another and there are loads of options!

The main fetes that are popular at Crop Over are the breakfast fetes, boat parties, cooler fetes and of course Foreday Morning party. These, along with the Kadooment Street Parade, are frequently recommended by as the essential fetes to attend during Crop Over. Tickets to fetes usually sell out quite quickly, so purchasing tickets within 1-2 months prior to Cop Over is recommended.

Breakfast Fetes usually begin early in the morning, around 6am, and the party runs until the early afternoon. These fetes usually include unlimited food and drinks with your admission and some have VIP bottle service and seating. Notable Breakfast fetes include Scorch Breakfast Jam and the Mimosa Ultra-Premium Break Party.

Cooler fetes are where partygoers are encouraged to bring their own alcohol, ice, chasers, cups etc. Whereas inclusive parties means everything from the food and alcohol is included. Cooler fetes are more casual affairs with no dress code you can rock up in flip-flops. Notable cooler fetes include Soca Brainwash, and the Lush Cooler Party Experience.

Boat Fetes are normally all-inclusive events offering food and drinks that can be enjoyed while sailing the beautiful sea surrounding Barbados. The most notable boat fetes include Limerz and Scorch. Roast Cruise offers two duelling party boats where the boats. Don’t show up late as they don’t wait for anybody and they won’t issue refunds.

The Grand Kadooment Day

crop over barbados festival

Kadooment Day is the day everyone has been waiting for and the grand finale of Crop Over Festival! It is the one day that you definitely don’t want to miss and is said to be the most joyous day of the year. It is when the streets of Bridgetown are filled with colour, crowds and chaos. Kadooment Day is always held on the first Monday of August and is actually a national holiday in Barbados.

Kadooment Day known as “Mega Monday” by the locals is when the mas band parade occurs. The Kadooment Day Road March sees thousands of revellers in large bands, depicting various themes, make their way to Spring Gardens, dressed in the most elaborately colourful costumes, dancing behind music trucks to soca tunes for over four hours.

The vibe on Kadooment Day is euphoric even if you are not participating in the parade! Local residents from small kids to the elderly are all dancing in front of their homes, while cheering on the many mas bands.

Crop Over Kadooment Day Mas Bands

The best way to enjoy Kadooment Day at Crop Over is not just to watch the parade from the sidelines, but to join in and play mas! We highly recommend playing mas for the ultimate Crop Over experience.

How to choose a Mas Band? Well that’s a difficult decision because you have so many good options some people choose because they like the costume, or they like the theme. Mas Bands convey a story through colours and design of costumes. You should take a look at what each mas band offers you for your experience.

Mas bands usually debut their costumes around May and June, and the more popular mas bands sell out very quickly, usually within a few weeks, so the best advice is to decide quick which band you wish to be a part of!

Cost is another consideration when choosing a mas band because depending on who you pick costumes can cost anywhere from around $400US to well over $1000. Costumes for women are more expensive because they are more elaborate.

The 2019 Crop Over mas bands are:

To research each of the Crop Over Mas Bands and to see which ones suit you can be done here https://www.visitbarbados.org/crop-over-festival

  • African Heartbeat
  • Aura Experience
  • Azure International
  • Baje International
  • Bett west kadooment band
  • Blue Box Cart Band
  • Colorz Entertainment
  • Dusk til Dawn
  • Erupt the Band
  • Fifth Element
  • Gwyneth Squires Band
  • Jump Promotions
  • Kontact
  • Krave the Band
  • Lux Crop Over
  • My Version Communities 50
  • Mas Mania Productions
  • Metaworldwide
  • Outrage Festival band
  • Passion VYBZ Kadooment Band
  • Power X 4 generation
  • Romp international
  • The Crocodilians
  • Tropical Fantasy
  • Walk Holy Kadooment Band
  • Wednesday 2000
  • Xhosa Barbados
  • Xplosion international band
  • Zulu International

Crop Over Kadooment Day Parade Route

crop over barbados

You need to have some stamina because the parade route is about 10km! It takes roughly 6-7 hours to complete the jump without break. This is because everyone slowly dances their way down the road.

Wukking Up!

If you plan on celebrating Crop Over and especially if you plan on participating in the parade then you have to learn how to “wuk up”. A Bajan wakkup is a movement where you gyrate your waistline and don’t confuse it with a whine! Winning is a slower movement and mainly uses the waistline and wukkup is much faster and involves more back and forth movement of the hips and waist!

We recommend watching a few YouTube videos before you go to get the hang of it. Just remember it is all about just going with the flow of your partner and feeling the beat of the music.

Eat like a Local!

crop over barbados festival

You must try the incredible authentic street food from Barbados and Crop Over is the perfect time to eat like a local. There are so many stall and kiosks selling delicious local produce. Barbados is well known for its seafood and one of the most popular snacks are fishcakes a Barbadian speciality.

We also recommend trying the traditional Fried Flying Fish Dish or the Macaroni Pie. Another traditional delicacy is known as Pudding n’ Souse. But honestly it doesn’t matter if you eat from a fine dining restaurant, street kiosk or a rum shop, Crop Over is the best time to taste the Barbados flavours.

And of course you must enjoy some Barbadian rum! Almost every Crop Over Party you attend you can ask the Bartender for sum Bajan Rum Punch, but be warned this drink tastes sweet, but it is really strong!

Crop Over Heritage, Culture, Arts and Folk

For those that want to learn more about the Heritage and Culture of Barbados, Crop Over provides ample opportunity to do so! There are numerous events that showcase and educate about just that.

Some of these events include the Heritage Lectures, the Crop Over Heritage Feast, the Historic Bridgetown Heritage Tours and Walks and of course the Ceremonial Delivery of the last Canes! Other events include the Flower Festivals, Folk Concerts, Garden Parties, Calypso Shows, Speightstown Market and more.

Also held is the Crop Over Visual Arts Festival and along with its exhibitions play an important role in the photography and Arts & Craft community, by annually exhibiting the skills of talented locals, both professionals and amateurs. There is also an annual Read In, where artist use dance, music and visual aids to embellish their spoken word performances. Numerous workshops surround these events.

Junior Kadooment!

Crop Over is for everyone! Even the kids get a chance to take part in the Crop Over celebrations! The Junior Kadooment sees youngsters get a chance to parade in costume. There is also a Junior Calypso Monarch Competition that celebrates the young talent on the island. There are loads of family friendly events for the whole family!

Crop Over Budget!

crop over barbados festival

Attending carnival is not cheap, it has been estimated that it can cost anywhere between $U4000 – $10,000 to cover accommodation, flights, costumes, fetes, drinks, food and transport. While this is expensive just ask anyone who has been to a Caribbean Carnival and they will tell you that its worth every single penny!

Playing mas is what will usually drive the costs up. Every Mas Band has a backline, midline and frontline. These different sections will dictate how complex and large the costumes will be. Frontline costumes are usually the more elaborate ones with big headdresses, feather wings and lots of jewelled items and these are the costumes that can cost up to US$2000.

If you are on a budget you can get cheaper costumes that can cost anywhere from $350-$750 for smaller bands or just be part of the backline in a bigger band. Also the participating in Foreday Monday is a cheaper alternative with bands costing from $100 to $280.

Fetes can set you back another US$1000 or more depending on how many you attend. Some fetes offer an open bar, world class music performances, gourmet food etc.

Getting There

The international airport of Barbados is Grantley Adams International Airport, located in Seawell, Christ Church. It is the only designated port entre for persons arriving and departing by air in Barbados and operate as one of the major gateways to the Eastern Caribbean.

As the main Crop Over activities occur during the first weekend of August the majority of travellers make their journey to the island a day or two prior to the main events. So arriving in Barbados around August 1st or a couple days earlier means you would avoid the main tourist influx, custom lines, more flight availability and lets you get some sightseeing in. 

Most travellers leave Barbados the day after the big parade so if you wait for a few extra days after Kadooment Day then you can avoid all the congestion. If you are coming from Europe then both Virgin Atlantic and British Airways have nonstop flights from London. If you are coming from the USA then American Airlines, Iberia and West Jet have plenty of flights.

Check out flight costs here.

Accommodation for Crop Over

We recommend staying in areas where you can easily get food, drinks, transportation, are close to a nice beach and of course close to the action. The jump and majority of activities occur in Bridgetown. However many people choose to stay around St. Lawrence Gap/Dover Beach and  this area is incredibly lively during Crop Over.

Other good areas include staying in Hastings, Rockley, Needhams Point and Worthing. These areas are all in the Southwestern region of Barbados and are close to festivities. A high concentration of tourists stay here during Crop Over. If you prefer to escape the crowds and enjoy some peace and quiet then stay in the Silver Sands beach area. Some great options in that area include:

  • Infinity On the Beach Hotel in St. Lawrence Gap
  • Accra Beach Hotel in Rockley
  • Hilton Barbados Resort in Needhams Point
  • South Beach Hotel in Rockley/Rockley Beach
  • Inchcape Seaside Villas
  • Moonraker Beach Hotel
  • Silver Point Hotel

Remember to book your accommodation early because many hotels get booked out almost as soon as the previous Crop Over is finished. The island receives a huge influx of tourists and during Crop Over hotel prices increase during this period.

Check out some accommodation options here.

How to get around during Crop Over?

Depending on what part of the island you’re staying in, transportation can be costly particularly from event to event. There are plenty of taxis that can transport you around the island. A taxi trip shouldn’t cost more than around $25BBD to catch.

The island has public transportation in the form of Maxi (large vans) that are inexpensive to take. They stick to the man parts of the island and cost about $2.0BBD to catch.

What to do and see in Barbados?

crop over barbados festival

Barbados is a picturesque Caribbean island with crystal blue waters, fine powdery sand, colonial charm and gorgeous turquoise bays. You can relax on the beach, enjoy the sun or party the nights away.

Its capital city Bridgetown is nearly 400 years old and often called Little England. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is filled with historic buildings. It embodies a prim-and-proper British vibe except on Kadooment Day, when its anything but.

Barbados is in between the Atlantic and Caribbean oceans with markedly different coastlines on either side. There are endless amount of white sand, crystal blue water, post-card perfection beaches. You can either look for undeveloped and unspoiled areas to chill on, or hang out at more swanky beaches lined with bars, restaurants and resorts.

Barbados is also known for its epic nightlife. If Crop Over doesn’t tire you out then why not hang out with locals in Baxters Rd in Bridgetown where you can drink till late. Bars are usually ramshackle but super friendly and loads of fun! St Lawrence Gap is a laidback but busy place filled with bars, clubs and restaurants.

Some attractions include George Washington house. This is where America’s first president, once stayed and has been reconstructed to show how he lived. Also visit Harrison’s Cave, a cool echoing labyrinth of tunnels and chambers, and even a 12m waterfall that cascades into an emerald pool.

You can also visit Barbados Wildlife Reserve to see Barbados’s most colourful and exotic animals. See Andromeda Botanical Gardens that is hard to beat. If you like hiking then visit the Scotland District.

For more information about tours, things to do, sightseeing tours, day trips and more click here.

Before you go!

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