While browsing through the town of Bridgetown one day, I began to hear a host of drums in the distance. It seemed to get louder and louder as if it was coming towards me. I continued walking along Broad Street and to my surprise there was a street parade! This wasn’t any regular street parade; this was the Crop over Opening Gala Parade!
Ladies dressed in colorful cultural wear with baskets and buckets, straw hats and brightly colored headties (also known as Mother Sallies) danced through the streets. A few of these ladies came into the crowd and danced with locals and tourist as well. There were dancers performing cultural dances dressed in what is called "landship regalia". These outfits were brightly colored with yellow, blue, red, and definitely eye catching. There were men in bright colorful island like shirts and straw hats providing the music with drums, flutes and so on. These are known as tuk bands by locals. Not forgetting the stilt walkers with masks and colorful fringed pants dancing about 10 feet (maybe higher) off the ground. That is a definite skill if you ask me!
I later found out from a few locals that the parade was a preview of what was to come later that week at the "Opening Gala Ceremony". This ceremony was the official commencement of the islands summer festival "Crop Over".
The festival begins with the "Opening Gala" and "Ceremonial Delivery of the Last Canes" and the crowning of the King and Queen of the Festival. This would be the most productive male and female cane cutters for that season. The Crop Over summer festival is Barbados' most popular festival. It started back in the 1780’s when Barbados was the world's largest producer of sugar.
At the end of the sugar season, there was always a big celebration of another successful sugar cane harvest. This was later dubbed the "Crop Over" celebration. The sugar industry declined in 1940’s and the festival did as well. However, it was revived in 1974. At the "opening gala" Several aspects of Barbadian culture and a wide selection of musical performances can be viewed and enjoyed. Fresh produce as well as art and craft are also available for sale.
The Festival is well known around the world, and although it may not be on the level of Trinidad’s Carnival. It is definitely made its mark on the cultural stage of the Caribbean. Some people don’t miss a year of the "Crop Over" Festival. So, If you have a chance come and find out why.