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Celebrating Island-style: Festivals of the Bahamas

Celebrating Island-style: Festivals of the Bahamas | CosmosMariners.com


Year-round sunshine, crystal clear waters, and hundreds of white sand beaches: welcome to the Bahamas! This island chain is only a short plane ride from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, but the tropical scenery makes it feel like a world away.

While most people head to the island chain for relaxation (and rightly so!), there's another reason why you should check your calendar before you make your vacation plans here: the festivals of the Bahamas. 

Here are just a few of the exciting events that are held all over the island chain each year: 

Junkanoo
Boxing Day, New Year's Day, and the month of July
Various locations across the Bahamas

Celebrating Island-style: Festivals of the Bahamas | CosmosMariners.com
{junkanoo | photo via flickr | creative commons}
The most famous of the festivals of the Bahamas, Junkanoo is a colorful romp through the islands' culture and spirit that occurs three times a year. At each of the iterations of Junkanoo, there are parades with colorful costumes, upbeat music, and cash prizes for the best costumes and dances. Don't miss the Rush-Outs, which are large dance troupes (sometimes reaching 1,000 members) who dance down the streets of Nassau, Eleuthera, Bimini, and more. The exuberant dancing happens early in the morning--mostly from 2 a.m. to 10 a.m.--so plan your sleep schedule accordingly!

RumBahamas Festival
End of February
Port Charlotte, Nassau

One of the newer festivals on the roster, the RumBahamas focuses on that favorite drink of pirates (and vacationers).  Although rum was a major export for much of the islands' history, there was a bit of a gap for visitors who wanted to experience the rum culture. In 2013, the John Watlings Distillery opened in Nassau and revitalized this centuries-old product for a new audience. Today, the RumBahamas Festival brings rum products from all over the Caribbean for festivalgoers to sample. Make sure to sample a Dirty Mule, the festival's official drink, and a Goombay Smash, the national drink of the Bahamas. 
Eleuthera Jazz Festival
Late March/ early April
Governor's Harbour, Eleuthera

Celebrating Island-style: Festivals of the Bahamas | CosmosMariners.com
{governor's harbour | photo via flickr | creative commons}
The Bahamians are one musically talented people! The All That Jazz Festival brings together jazz musicians from across the island chain to showcase their abilities in this festival. In addition to individual performances, the festival also raises money for a local cause; the 2016 weekend jazz concert will raise funds for the island's library. 

Pelican Point Coconut Festival 
Easter Monday
Pelican Point, Grand Bahama Island

If you love this tropical treat, you'll have to make plans to attend the next Coconut Festival. The Home of Coconuts, as Pelican Point is known, is the perfect place to find a coconut craft or try some new coconut foods. Don't forget to try a gully wash, a Bahamian drink that contains (what else?) coconut water. 

National Island Family Regatta
Late April
Elizabeth Harbour, George Town, Exuma

Celebrating Island-style: Festivals of the Bahamas | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via northwest ruminations}
One of the oldest regattas in the Bahamas, this family-friendly event was first held in 1954. All boats the complete in the four-day-long festival are locally made Bahamian sloops, and the competition gets fierce for the "Best in the Bahamas" title. In between races, there are plenty of other things to do during the festival, including fashion shows, volleyball tournaments, and weightlifting competitions. 

Eleuthera Pineapple Festival
Late May/ early June
Gregory Town, Central Eleuthera

Did you know that this island was known for its pineapple farming? Honor Eleuthera's rich farming history at this festival, where you can watch the crowning of each year's Little Miss Pineapple, participate in a triathalon, discover new ways to cook with pineapple, and try to win the pineapple eating contest. 


Cat Island Rake and Scrape
First Friday in June (Bahamian Labour Day) 
Arthur's Town Airport, Cat Island

In the Bahamas, a saw isn't just a saw--it's a musical instrument, too! The handsaw is played along with drums and guitar, and, in the Bahamas, the music usually accompanies the toe-heel polka or Bahamian Quadrille dance. In addition to the unique musical stylings of the festival, you'll also want to catch the gospel choir concert, shop the local artists' booths, and eat some delicious conch and other Bahamian delicacies. 
Andros Crab Fest
Second weekend in June
Fresh Creek, Andros

Celebrating Island-style: Festivals of the Bahamas | CosmosMariners.com
{fresh creek | photo via flickr | creative commons}
What better place to sample some of the freshest crabs in the world than on Andros Island, known as "The Land of Crabs." At the festival, you can sample crab fixed in 101 ways, learn more about the life cycle of these shellfish, and listen to some rake and scrape music. Come hungry!

Conch Cracking Festival
Mid-October
McLean's Town, East Grand Bahama Island

Are you the fastest one? Test your conch cracking abilities at this fun-for-all-ages festival that centers around a staple of Bahamian food. Even if you don't win the cracking contest, you'll still have a blast sampling fried conch, listening to music, and browsing local artisans' wares. 

Bahamas International Film Festival
Early December 
Harbour Island, Eleuthera, and Nassau

The only thing better than having a movie marathon is having a movie marathon in paradise! Now in its 12th year, BIFF provides the islands with access to films that they otherwise would not have access to, in essence serving as a film liaison between the Bahamas and the international film community. 

You're likely to rub shoulders with the filmmakers and the A-list attendees, so make room in your suitcase for a nice dress next to those bathing suits. 
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No matter where you choose to take your Bahamas vacation, make sure to see which festivals of the Bahamas are on the calendar during your visit. 

Any of these will add another layer to your visit and will help you immerse yourself in the colorful and talented culture of the Bahamas. 

Have you gone to any festivals of the Bahamas? Which of these would you like to attend?
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