Bahamians love to get together and celebrate the things that make the islands special, such as food, history, and culture.
This is why it is not uncommon to find some kind of special event or festival is taking place during your visit. Attending a local festival is a great way to learn about the people of the Bahamas, enjoy some local fare, listen to live music, and just plain have fun.
Junkanoo began as a celebration of freedom by African slaves in the Bahamas who were given a few days off around Christmas time. During this time the slaves got together, played music, danced, and celebrated their freedom as well as their African roots. After the abolition of slavery, the tradition almost died out, but a few islanders kept Junkanoo alive, and today it remains a celebration of freedom.
The Junkanoo Festival begins in the early morning hours of December 26, with a parade through the streets of each island kicking off the events. The same thing occurs once again on January 1.
Junkanoo is often celebrated at other times of year, with Junkanoo “Rush Outs,” when locals wearing traditional dress rush into the streets to play live music and dance in celebration. Another event honoring Junkanoo is the Summer Junkanoo Festival in June.
Events and festivals that occur between the months of December and April tend to draw larger crowds because this is the high tourist season. Large crowds shouldn't keep you away from the festivities, however, because there truly is no better way to experience Bahamian culture.
Bahamas International Film Festival
The goal of the Bahamas International Film Festival is to inspire local filmmakers, and showcase their works. The event has taken place each year in December, and drawn such famous names to the islands as Johnny Depp and Nicholas Cage. Events during the festival include the Opening Night Gala, discussion panels, individual film screenings, and Closing Night Gala.
Abaco Christmas Festival
Another December event is the Abaco Christmas Festival. Featured events are a food and wine tasting, arts and crafts bazaar, live entertainment, a Junkanoo parade, a boat parade, visits with Santa, and a fireworks display.
New Years Sailing Regatta
About 40 or so Bahamian built sloops race in Montagu Bay on January 1st and 2nd. Those left on shore can browse booths filled with locally made dish ware.
Staniel Cay New Years Day Cruising Regatta
Another regatta takes place on New Years Day in the Bahamas, but this time in Exuma, and this time participants are visiting crafts rather than local.
Nassau Classic Car Festival
Classic cars are paraded through the streets of Nassau/Paradise Island for all to sea early each January.
PokerStars Caribbean Adventure
Poker players from around the globe head to the Bahamas for the world's largest poker tournament outside of Las Vegas. The festival takes place at the Atlantis Resort and in addition to tournaments there are numerous parties and events held throughout the week.
Bahamas Princess Resort and Casino Crystal Pro-Am Golf Tournament
The Crystal Pro-Am Golf Tournament, which takes place in January at the Bahamas Princess Resort and Casino on Grand Bahama Island, is one of the most prestigious golf tournaments in the Caribbean. A $100,000 check is the grand prize.
Rum Cay Day Festival
Rum Cay Day Festival is held each year in February at Port Nelson on Rum Cay. It is a cultural festival featuring local fare, live entertainment, and games appropriate for the whole family.
George Town Cruising Regatta
Over 500 yachts from visiting sailors race during a week of fun harbor-side activities in Exuma usually at the end of February or beginning of March.
Bacardi Rum Cup
The Bacardi Rum Cup takes place on Nassau/Paradise Island over two days in March. Sailing competitions and a performance by the royal Bahamas Police Force Band typifies the event.
Family Island Regatta
In April, local sloops, one to represent each island of the Bahamas, compete for the title of "Best in the Bahamas."
Bahamas Heritage Festival
The Bahamas Heritage Festival focuses on the culture of the islands, and features traditional music, dance, and story-telling. The Great Bahamas Seafood Festival is a part of this event, which takes place at the end of April or beginning of March on Nassau/Paradise Island.
...celebrate traditional customs...
The months of May through November see a multitude of island events and festivals, with something going on at least once a month. This may have something to do with harvest times (since many events during this time center around food and beverage), but perhaps the fact that these months represent the tourism off-season plays a role. This gives islanders more time to host large events, but also celebrate traditional customs without putting on a show for foreign spectators. Listed below are some of the highlights.
Island Roots Heritage Festival
The Island Roots Heritage Festival is held in New Plymouth on Green Turtle Cay each May. The festival celebrates the island's loyalist heritage and African roots, and honors the peaceful cohabitation of the two cultures. Events are plentiful, including a parade, live music, a conch cracking festival, pirate demonstration, tug-of-war championship, and much more family fun.
Long Island Sailing Regatta
At the end of May or beginning of June, 40 to 50 locally built sloops compete on Long Island. Like the Family Island Regatta, each sloop represents a different island of the Bahamas.
The Pineapple Festival takes place in Gregory Town on the island of Eleuthera. Each June the town honors workers in the pineapple industry by drawing attention to the hard work they do. Activities include a 40 mile bicycle race, a Little Miss Pineapple Pageant, pineapple eating contest, and a pineapple cooking contest.
Let loose and have fun at the Beer Festival on Exuma in July. Sample different drafts and scarf up all the pizza you can eat.
Bahamas Body Building Championship
A unique event that takes place in July on Nassau/Paradise Island, the Bahamas Body Building Championship brings body builders from all of the island's together to compete for the top prize.
Bahamas Emancipation Day
Bahamas Emancipation Day is a public holiday that takes place in August. All though there are events that take place throughout the island, Fox Village in Nassau draws the most attention with their road races, food, live music, and dance.
Bahamas Atlantis Superboat Challenge
The Bahamas Superboat Challenge is one of the premier events of the boating world in the Bahamas. It is an international event that takes place in September, beginning in Nassau/Paradise Island.
North Eleutera Sailing Regatta
Taking place in mid-October, the North Eleutera Sailing Regatta lasts for five dishes. On shore is a festival of live entertainment and native dishes.
Each October the Bahamas celebrates the country's most loved food at the annual Conch Festival. The conch is highlighted via a culinary event and celebrated with live music, dancing, and a conch cracking contest.
International Cultural Festival
Also in October is the International Cultural Festival. During this weekend long event, the Bahamas celebrates cultures around the world through food, entertainment, and more. The festival is hosted at the Botanical Gardens on New Providence.
Bahamas National Trust Wine and Art Festival
October is a busy month for festivals, with the Bahamas National Trust Wine and Art Festival also taking place during this time. Bahamian artists display some of their best works (which are available to purchase) at the Bahamas National Trust Retreat Gardens, while patrons sample over 50 varieties of wine by Bristol Wine & Spirits.
November's Mutton Festival is a unique event meant to encourage the expansion of goat and sheep farming on the island. Culinary contests, mutton tasting, and goat races are a few of the events that take place during the Mutton Festival.
The Bimini Big Game Fishing Club hosts the Wahoo Smackdown, an annual fishing competition each year in February and November. Anglers come from around the world to compete for several thousand dollars in cash and prizes, which is awarded in a number of catergories such as biggest catch. The 2013 entry fee was $1,250(USD) for a four angler boat, and first prize is $5,000(USD).
Bahamas Culinary Classic Food and Wine Festival
Expand your culinary horizons at the Bahamas Culinary Classic Food and Wine Festival in November. Local chefs compete against one another to please festival attendees with creative dishes that feature some of the Bahama's traditional foods.
Whether it's a food festival, a cultural celebration, or a display of arts, the Bahamas knows how to throw a party. Don't miss your opportunity to mingle with the locals when you visit the Bahamas; attend an event or festival and support everything that makes the islands unique.
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