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Jamaica's Events and Festivals

Find music, food, and dance at the many events and festivals that make Jamaica famous

Photo credit: © Eagleflying | Dreamstime.com

Festivals in Jamaica
 

Planning a vacation around an event in Jamaica is a great idea, but it can be a bit tricky. Although many festivals are held annually, situations like extreme weather and sales problems can often lead to rescheduling or a change in location.

Cultural Celebrations

The Jamaican Coffee Festival is held each fall in Kingston to celebrate the rich, agricultural tradition of coffee in Jamaica. Java lovers will find themselves on a caffeine high like no other, as farmers and merchants provide visitors with free samples of a wide array of coffees, hot beverages, and other related foods.

Heritage Fest, also held each fall, is an annual festival in Kingston that celebrates and uses food, dance and music to explore the diversity of Jamaica's population. From Indian curry to Lebanese dancing to Chinese fortune telling, Heritage Fest pays homage to all of the diverse ethnicities found in Jamaica.

The Accompong Maroon Festival takes place each year on Jan. 6, the birthday of Captain Cudjoe, the man who defeated the English army. The festival celebrates the Maroons, featuring traditional dancing and singing, a fantastic feast, the blowing of the Abeng horn, and playing of the Maroon war drums. The Accompong celebrates a fun and exciting aspect of the cultural and historical heritage of Jamaica.

Carnival is held all over the island...

 

One of the most renowned Caribbean festivals, Carnival, spreads across the entire island in one huge party, featuring popular musical entertainment as well as parades. Carnival is held all over the island in the week before Easter and is one of the island's most popular festivals.

Jonkanoo, called Junkanoo on other Caribbean islands, is Jamaica's Christmas celebration. Party-goers dressed in masquerade parade through streets in celebration of their West African and slave heritage.

Musical Festivals

Heineken Startime takes place each winter in Kingston and promises to be the most significant musical event of the season. The concert features one of the strongest line-ups in each area of Jamaican music, from ska to rock steady to hip hop, and, of course, reggae.

African music is honored each year in Montego Bay, at the Africa Jamfest.  Traditional African music, arts and crafts, clothing, and food are present during the Jamfest.

The Rebel Salute Music Festival, also in Kingston, has been held in January for the past 12 years. The festival highlights cultural roots music and focuses more on the folk tradition than other shows. No drugs, alcohol, or meat are allowed at the event.  Don't expect any less of a crowd, though, as patrons of this event include locals as well as international guests who show up each year for this amazing concert.

The Air Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival is usually held early in the year at various locations. This amazing festival features a diverse range of musical genres but pulls all their influences toward the blues and jazz lover. From African to Cuban and reggae, this festival gives a great international flavor to the age-old tradition of jazz and blues.

On that note, June is "Jazz Month" in Jamaica.  Jazz fans have numerous options, from the Ocho Rio Jazz Festival to the Jamaica International Jazz Festival; Over 30 jazz events take place throughout the island.

International Reggae Day is a blowout musical festival in Jamaica. Usually celebrated in July, this festival hosts not only musical talent shows, but a talent search, workshops and a lecture on the life of reggae icon, Bob Marley. This concert is broadcast live all over the world via satellite television and the Internet.

Reggae Sumfest takes place the first week in August each year in Montego Bay. The best in reggae are brought together for a week of sonic celebration. Visitors can purchase tickets for just one night of partying or can spend a little more and get weekend passes, or even a pass for the whole week. Some tickets even include backstage passes. Without a doubt, Reggae Sumfest is a great way to enjoy a week of music.

More live music will rock the island during the Caribbean Music Expo at the end of September through the beginning of October.  This event takes place in Ocho Rios, and features concerts on the beach and an industry trade show.

Sporting Events

Jamaica is home to two of the largest fishing tournaments that run in September and October each year. The Falmouth Blue Marlin Tournament and Port Antonio International Fishing Tournament are popular, and the Port Antonio Tournament is one of the most prestigious in the Caribbean.  The Montego Bay Yacht Club holds a fishing tournament in September, as well.

Golfing events are also popular in Jamaica.  Some of the top LGPA golfers compete each May at the Mojo 6 Golf Tournament.  In December, the Jamaica Invitational Pro-Am hosts PGA pros as well as amateurs who take on the courses at Montego Bay's Ritz-Carlton Golf and Spa Resort Rose Hall.

For a special treat, check out the Jamaica Cricket Festival.  Teams from around the world meet in Jamaica to compete against one another in over 50 games at various venues throughout the island.  Other unique events include Jake's Off-Road Triathalon in April, the World Championship of Dominoes in June and Makka Pro Surf Contest in July.

Other Events and Festivals

Celebrate the deliciousness that is the yam at the Trelawny Yam Festival each Easter Monday.  Visit Albert Town's main square for samples, games, and entertainment all in honor of the yam.  In August, Bath honors the Breadfruit with a festival that includes live music, poetry readings, and a reenactment of the first planting of the breadfruit tree.  Another food centered celebration is the All Jamaican Grill-Off, at which teams of local grill masters compete to cook the best large piece of meet.  The event takes place in June at Kingston's Hope Gardens. Don't forget about the Portland Jerk Festival in July, where visitors can sample Jamaican jerk and enjoy live music and carnival rides.  If seafood is your favorite, you won't want to miss the Little Ochie Seafood Festival in St. Elizabeth Perish each July.  Live music plays during this event as attendees eat all the seafood they can handle. 

Book lovers unite at the Calabash International Literary Festival each May in Treasure Beach.  The event is typified by readings, workshops, and music.  If clothing is your passion, check out Caribbean Fashion Week, which brings top designers from around the world to Kingston's National Indoor Sports Centre in June for fashion shows featuring their latest designs.  Movie lovers won't want to miss the Reggae Film Festival in Montego Bay. Independent films from around the world are screened, and guests can sit in on seminars and gala events.  The Reggae Film Festival is typified by live reggae concerts before each screening.

The National Festival of the Arts runs through the summer, ending on Jamaican Independence Day. Aside from sales of arts and crafts, local competitions showcase the work of indigenous artists in dance, song, drama, speech, painting, sculpture, crafts, culinary arts, and photography, to name just a few. The wide variety of artistic media makes this festival a sure hit.  Another great arts festival is the Kingston on the Edge Urban Arts Festival, at which artists of all medias, including performance arts, share their skills with attendees.  This festival is held in June.  In September, up-and-coming musicians and film makers gather with industry professionals at the Stir It Up Film and Music Festival.  There are concerts, film screenings, and workshops during the days-long event.

Whatever your interest, be it art, music, or just a great party atmosphere, one thing is certain: locals know how to turn events and culture into something spectacular and memorable--a special occasion with the distinct feel of Jamaica that you won't want to miss.

 

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