Crop Over in Barbados: More than a Carnival

Annually. July 13 - August 5, 2002

Celebrate the harvest of the sweetest crop in the world in a colorful, musical jubilation.

Pictures from the Barbados Tourist Board

Sugar Muse SUGAR........Can you imagine life without it? What would our candies, chocolates, desserts, cakes and even medicines taste like? The introduction of sugar cane and the sugar taken from it changed the food we eat, and how we prepare it. From ancient times until the Middle Ages honey was the best-known sweetener. Sugar cane was first introduced to Europe in the Middle Ages, and later Spanish and Portuguese explorers of the 1400 and 1500's brought the sugar cane plants, called "the Indian honey-bearing reed".

Barbado's Beach BARBADOS, an island in the West Indies, was probably "discovered" by the Portuguese but the British made the first European settlement in 1627. Barbados has the perfect conditions for producing sugar cane -rich soil and a moderate climate. While sugar cane is the island's major product, rum, coconuts, bananas and fishing are also part of the island's economy. In early July, Barbadians celebrate the sugar cane harvest, the highlight for the summer (and some think for the whole year!). This national harvest festival is called CROP OVER,and dates back to the 1780's when the slaves who worked on the sugarcane plantations celebrated the end of the sugar cane crop harvest, which was grueling work. In their time-off they dressed up, and put garlands on the animals, which had helped them to carry the sugar cane. At that time, Barbados was the world's largest sugar producer, but the sugar industry declined and so did the Crop Over festival. In the 1940's the festival was stopped but was revived in 1974 and has become an extravaganza, which attracts thousands of visitors from around the world. There are special flights from many cities, especially from England.

Crop Over Stamp The Barbadians today take part in many of the rituals their ancestors did while also celebrating in new ways. This mixture of old-time and modern gives this festival a character unlike any other in the Caribbean. During Crop Over you can see parades, dances, and fireworks, and hear calypso bands, enjoy arts and crafts (beautiful wooden sculptures, woven straw mats and colorful clay pottery) and taste the same kind of food and drinks that the slaves prepared in the 19th century.

Crop Over is a three-week long festival of feasting and enjoyment. The festival begins with a parade of flower-decorated carts, for the ceremonial delivery of the last sugar canes. At that time the King and Queen of the festival are crowned - they are usually the most productive cane cutters of the season. For three weeks, each Barbadian parish, or city, holds its own fairs and festivities, which might involve a goat race, a donkey derby, or contests to see who can catch a greased pig, drink the most coconut milk, or cut the most sugar cane. During the festival there are also entertaining contests of stick lickey, a sport similar to fencing.

Crop Parade MUSIC is one of the main features of the festival. All over the island there are calypso and steel pan music competitions and live concerts. Calypsos are songs with an infectious beat that usually satirize local events or famous people. A steel pan or drum, created in Trinidad (also in the Caribbean) is an instrument made from an oil drum and played with wooden sticks. The calypso groups are organized into "tents" which are hugely popular and deafen you with the fierce competition to win the Calypso Monarch Award. You can also hear Tuk bands. Tuk is a fusion of

British military and African rhythms played by a band of hilariously dressed minstrels with a kettledrum, bass drum and penny whistle. Children also take part in a calypso competition and they also have a king and queen chosen.

On the final day of Crop Over, the first Monday in August, Barbadians celebrate GRAND KADOOMENT DAY (means 'party'), a public holiday. It's the final and largest party of the festival. There is a huge carnival-like parade and a contest among costumed bands. There are prizes for the best costumes, the finest steel band, and "Tune of the Crop" - the most popular song of the day. Twenty-five bands compete in the national stadium in Bridgetown, the capital. As calypso music blasts, the bands parade and dance across the stadium.

Crop DancersGOODBYE MR. HARDING! After this costume competition, the costumed bands, calypso bands, and all those enjoying the festival, march for five miles to Garrison Savannah, the Bridgetown town square, for the final celebration. A life-size doll, representing Mr. Harding, who was a ruthless plantation owner, is carried into the square. It's a symbol of the cruel treatment many slaves suffered earlier on the sugar cane plantations. The parade-goers stuff it with rags, straw or sugar cane debris, set it on fire then pelt it with stones. When Mr. Harding is burned, people set off firecrackers, watch a fireworks display and sing and dance long into the night (or next morning!)


Favorite FOODS are:

Delicious DRINKS are:

They're available from street vendors all over the island, but many people make their own as well.

Make your own Ginger Beer:

Mix, and let sit for 24 hours at room temperature. Strain, and serve over ice.


  1. Go for a hike on the island. Information at
  2. Visit Sunbury Plantation House
  3. Visit Sir Frank Hutson Sugar Museum and Factory, where you can discover the history of the sweetest product in the world, and the sweets, molasses and rum that come from it. You can also tour the modern factory and see sugar being processed today.
  4. Visit the Rum Factory and Heritage Park, to "Savour the flavour of Barbadian culture".

Sites to check out: (for more about the music)

Images and Text copyright Vivienne Mackie, 2002.
No reproduction, electronic, written or otherwise, without prior written consent.

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