Move over pumpkin patch. Step away from the apple bobbing booth. Harvest festivals aren’t limited to rural and small town traditions of northern climes memorialized in Norman Rockwell artwork.
Almost every culture in the world with agricultural roots has some kind of harvest festival – and Barbados' ‘Crop Over’ heats up summer with a distinctly ‘islands’ way of celebrating its traditional conclusion of the sugar cane harvest.
While the agricultural tradition dates back to sugar plantations in Barbados (and several other Caribbean islands that cultivated sugar) in the 1600’s, today’s Crop Over in Barbados is a Bajan culture, arts and entertainment extravaganza.
In 2022, Crop Over returns to Barbados after a two-year pandemic hiatus.
Not to be confused with one of the region’s Carnivals, Crop Over is a purely summer event. Events build up over a couple of months, leading up to a crescendo at the end of July, to the final event, the Grand Kadooment, in early August.
The ‘Ceremonial Delivery of the Last Reeds’ opens Crop Over and is one of the clearest links to the festival’s heritage as the celebration of the sugar harvest, accompanied by live music and entertainment.
Crop Over is known for “Calypso Tents” which are community halls and spaces for not only music by local Bajan performers like the iconic Red Plastic Bag, but also for other Crop Over community events. Calypso performers vie for the prestigious title of ‘Pic-O-De-Crop.’
The other most important musical genre has its own contest and title. Soca Monarch competitions crown adults and children soca musicians, and soca music’s place in Crop Over is enshrined in performances by locals like Alison Hinds.
Fetes is a word adopted from French for party, and imaginative, themed parties run throughout the weeks of Crop Over – some at any hour of the day!
Sports fans can get involved in one of the most popular and iconic sports of the region, cricket, and markets and street fairs serve up gastronomic delights.
And don’t forget the parade! The climax of Crop Over is the national holiday of Grand Kadooment. Costumed bands parade through streets filled with incredible energy, often with international celebrities joining in the fun. Even home-grown celebrity hero Rihanna, or 'Ri Ri to us,' newly-dubbed world’s youngest self-made female billionaire, has been known to make an appearance! Or an entrance!
Revellers make their way through the streets of Bridgetown throughout the evening and into the night, where the culmination of Crop Over is marked by fireworks against the backdrop of the beach and thousands of echoes of the traditional greeting: 'Crop Over it sweet fuh days!'
Beyond the party atmosphere, what makes Barbados’ Crop Over truly unique is the series of events that make the celebrations a stage for local artisans and performers, including this year’s:
● Arts and Artisan Pop-Ups in different locations
● Folk Concert on the Day of National Significance (July 26); and the
● Foreday Morning Jam (July 30)
And while the island nation preserves its local, multicultural traditions and introduces new experiences, it also keeps Crop Over very up to the minute. In 2022, the Barbados National Cultural Foundation created a new Crop Over Instagram filter for the celebrations.
Crop Over is a sizzling harvest festival, island-style – one you can still make plans to attend!
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Images courtesy of visitbarbados.org/
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