The show would need to be spectacular for you to turn your attention from the natural beauty of this pristine Caribbean paradise, and the Vincy Mas Carnival celebrations in Kingstown will certainly keep you truly distracted during two months, extending from May to July, of totally over-the-top fun.
The celebrations reach their climax in late June. This is when you can catch the highlights of the programmed events, such as the Caribbean’s top Miss Carnival contest and the ‘J’ouvert’ tradition, featuring masked and highly decorated individuals, sometimes daubing their skin with paint and mud, heralding the beginning of the day as they roam the streets even before dawn, dressed as devils. Competitions abound amidst the typical West Indian parades of manic dancers and incredible costumes: witness the search for the King and Queen of the Bands, the Steel Band competition and the Calypso competition. The grand finale is the exuberant Mardi Gras parade of costumed bands, before the island returns again, for a time, to its usual relaxed, tranquil state.
This is the perfect setting for sailing and watersports, a fact that is celebrated with several events which revolve around the local maritime heritage of the islands. Bequia’s Easter Regatta, for example, is a four-day festival of sailing that knows no bounds: you will see beautiful vessels by the hundreds, from old schooners to sharp racers, and traditional Bequia style dinghies to children’s coconut boats. One of the many events is a single-handed circumnavigation of this delightful, tiny island. The tradition harks back to the islands’ fishing tradition, where every Easter holiday, it was the local fishermen who decided to put aside their nets, turning their attention instead to a friendly race to see who had the fastest boat. The island of Canouan in the Grenadines also hosts an annual regatta in May featuring side shows of calypso, a beauty pageant and other sports and games. Keen anglers will return to Bequia in July for the Fisherman’s Day organized by the Rotary Club. As well as the contest held in the early morning to land the biggest catch, the day goes on with a fantastic cook-up in true Caribbean style, where the fish is prepared with traditional rice‘n’peas, dasheen, yam, plantain, coucou, breadfruit and coleslaw accompaniments. Spectators also get a rare opportunity to purchase as much fresh fish as they can carry away with them.
The strong musical traditions of the Caribbean have given rise to a number of popular events throughout the year. Early in the year, Mustique and Bequia host the Mustique Blues Festival and Bequia Music Fest whose events complement each other and make for a wonderfully entertaining series of performances where the line-up usually includes guitar, piano, sax, drums and harmonica. The blues artist Dana Gillespie was the driving force behind the festival after she once spontaneously got up to perform at Basil’s Bar, and since has brought to the island such stars as Eugene Hideaway Bridges, Luddie Sams and The Marques Brothers. Other musical genres to be celebrated later in the year include Steel Pan, Reggae, Calypso and Jazz. Check out, for example, the Union Island Maroon Festival: an annual festival featuring Big Drum, Nation Dance and traditional folk songs held three days before or after the full moon, marking the start of the planting season.
In December, the beginning of the Christmas celebrations is marked by the Nine Mornings Festival, a uniquely St Vincentian festival of pre-dawn street concerts, fetes, fun competitions, traditional music and steel pan which are to be heard on each of the nine days leading up to Christmas in a series of venues over the islands.