Caribana ignites the streets of Barbuda with vibrant festivities

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Scene from yesterday’s opening parade (Image courtesy Chana Nedd)
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By Kenicia Francis – Codrington, Barbuda

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Caribana is a festival where Barbudans celebrate their culture. 

The sister isle’s annual extravaganza, held over the long Whitsun weekend, comprises several days of festivities.

“It’s done through music, talent and of course we have our beach day. It will involve some of our cultural dishes,” Nadia Harris-George, Chair of Tourism and Culture for the Barbuda Council, told Observer when reporters visited Barbuda this week.

Yesterday saw the opening parade where participants marched through the streets of Codrington until reaching Caribana City where the opening ceremony commenced.

Thursday evening saw a pageant with seven teens competing for a crown, which kicked off the first day of this five-day festival, paving the way for the rest of the planned activities.

Chair of the Caribana Planning Committee, Matthew John, explained what lies ahead.

“For the first time there is a Caribana cultural swimwear show; we have three girls going in for that. Saturday is the beach day, fishing tournament, and the all-star show.

“Sunday, we have the horse race, it’s actually the biggest event for Caribana. Later on that evening is the calypso show at Caribana City. Monday morning at 4 o’clock, we go through the streets of Codrington for J’ouvert morning,” he explained.

With regards to the horse race, he said that everyone is hoping to beat MP Trevor Walker’s six-time winning stallion.

The beach day will feature performances from various artistes including Pumpa, Burning Flames, Claudette Peters, and Empress, among others.

John also told Observer that there are multiple breakfast fetes, a powder fete, and a slew of after-parties being hosted by various people across the island. 

Organisers opted for a swimsuit show instead of a queen show as many of the women on the island were said to be reluctant to take part in a full pageant. 

“We reached out to pretty much all the young ladies in Barbuda, and everybody said next year,” he began.

“See, the problem in Barbuda is we don’t have pageants in the schools, so there’s no motivation. Also, in the past we usually got sponsors like Hadeed and Harney, but for some reason they opted out this year,” he continued.

John explained that Barbudan young women in the past would overcome their shyness and participate in the show, competing for the rewards the sponsors would provide. 

He said that, one year, they even spoke to universities to provide a scholarship as a prize.

Next year, the committee plans to open the queen show to a select number of Antiguan women. 

Another issue that Barbuda faces with Caribana is having enough lodging options to accommodate all the people who visit for the festival. 

George said that they’ve seen an increase in people visiting the island to attend the various activities since Hurricane Irma, however she believes that more people would come if they had more accommodation available. 

“Also, if we get the exposure in terms of advertisement, add it to itineraries, or even airlines, so that if you pull-up a brochure you’ll see Caribana this time of year, that too could bring more people,” she said.

In terms of security for the event, John explained, “We’ve been working closely with the police. They’ve actually sent over additional personnel and vehicles to make sure everyone stays in line, because it’s actually going to be a huge Caribana.” 

The council has also implemented additional security measures to cope with the volume of people coming into the country via the docks. 

Council Chairman Devon Warner stated, “It’s a necessary move, especially at this time, with regards to the influx of people that are going to be moving back and forth between Antigua over the next couple of days.”

He added, “This measure is not going to be short-lived. It’s one that’s going to continue, to maintain control of this port. It’s important for these measures to be put in place to protect not only lives but also equipment.” 

Meanwhile, the council is also building a facility to house their new port officers.

They also plan to upgrade the entire dock area to maximise security with an added aesthetic bonus.

Warner explained, “We’re going to remove all the tanks and clean up. We’re doing a complete facelift on the whole area.”

The tanks referenced are old structures that were once used to store fuel for APUA.

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