Top Six Fun-in-the-Sun Summer Festivals in the Islands
Around here, when we think about summer, our minds tend to conjure up images of long, bright, sunny days, colourful Independence Day celebrations, languid days spent at the beach and out on the boat and, of course, delicious, juicy mangoes bursting with ripeness. But apart from the warmth of the Bahamian sunshine, our summers are also marked with a myriad of Fun-In-The-Sun summer festivals throughout the archipelago during the season. From sailing regattas and rake n’ scrape musical gatherings to foodie fests featuring native crabs and pineapples, we’re here to help you find a summer festival that is bound to give you a belly full of fun, food, and Bahamian culture to last the length of these vibrant months.
Whether you’re a soon-to-be visitor or a local Nassuvian in search of excitement beyond New Providence, here’s our 411 on the sizzling summer events of June, July, and August in our family of islands that are sure to satisfy your appetite for Bahamian culture.
NOTE: now is probably a good time to point out that the vast majority of these events include generous quantities of spirited beverages (or beers) and animated late night partying. But fear not, even if you’re not into those sort of spiked refreshment options, you can still sip on non-alcoholic beverages like fresh coconut water, freshly-squeezed “switcha” (Bahamian limeade), or a virgin guava daiquiri that are just as delicious.
Cat Island: Rake And Scrape Festival
When: Thursday, June 6, 2019 to Monday, June 10, 2019
Where: Arthur’s Town, Cat Island
Contact Info: (242) 357-3576 or visit their Facebook page
Credit: Smithsonian Folkways Recordings
This festival centers around our nation’s historic and unique musical genre known as rake n’ scrape. Dating back to the era of the mid-Atlantic slave trade, enslaved Africans began the practice of using a saw as a makeshift musical instrument since access to traditional musical instruments was severely limited. The wobbly sound created by the bending, hitting, and scraping of the saw’s teeth with an old knife blade is reminiscent of these days of old, and the musical tradition continues to be preserved in this African heritage musical festival. You’ll also notice other homemade brass instruments employed including a piece of wood, fishing line, and a tin washtub and brightly-painted plastic juice bottles filled with pigeon peas simulating a pair of maracas. These days, performing bands often add a concertina, guitar, saxophone, and a goatskin drum to the mix.
The festival includes performances (and competitions) by local Cat Island and national artists including the famous Lassie Doe Boys, Spank Band, Ancient Man, and Reuben G. The entertainment also highlights Bahamian quadrille and heel-and-toe polka dancing (a form of fancy footwork dancing that accompanies rake n’ scrape music), a farmers’ market, as well as down-home Cat Island cuisine, and local craft jewelry and straw items.
Long Island: Regatta
When: Wednesday, June 5, 2019 to Saturday, June 8, 2019
Where: Regatta Site in Salt Pond, Long Island
Contact Info: (242) 338-0038 or 357-1292
There once was a time when sailboats were a lifeline to Bahamian natives, to and from their island neighbors and the world at large. Today, these age-old traditions of Bahamian boat-building and sailing are kept alive through what are known the highly-anticipated annual regatta series. The rules are stringent: all sailboats must be Bahamian-designed, built and owned, and the materials and construction must be deemed “traditional Bahamian”. In addition, boats must be skippered and crewed by Bahamian nationals. In fact, many of the sailing sloops that take part are built right on the island in the settlement of Mangrove Bush.
As the boats line up and the starting gun is shot, you can count on finding an island celebration (or a dozen) nearby designed to adequately provide for anyone in search of fun, food and of course, libations. We suggest walking along the waterfront of the regatta venue to find yourself a mouthwatering mutton dish native to the island, or to scope out other games and live performances that will be occurring all day and evening long – requisite drink of your choice in hand of course.
Eleuthera: Pineapple Fest
When: Thursday, June 6 to Sunday, June 9, 2019
Where: Gregory Town, North Eleuthera
Contact Info: Eleuthera Tourist Office, (242) 332-2142
Credit: Holly Stone
Pineapples and Eleuthera go hand in hand and the island’s agricultural heritage of pineapple farming is celebrated in jubilant style at this annual summer festival. Based in the settlement of Gregory Town, the weekend is loaded with pineapple-themed activities including a “Pineapple Man” sprint triathlon, pineapple eating contest, cooking contest, plaiting of the pineapple pole, as well as many pineapple-infused foods and beverages (think fresh pineapple slices, pineapple daiquiris, pineapple tarts and tropical conch salad). You’re sure to get your fill of this outstanding fruit and rich culinary legacy of the island. Pay close attention and you will find Eleuthera pineapples to be distinctively white and sweet in comparison to classic golden yellow colored pineapples found in grocery stores.
If you’re interested, it’s possible to arrange a tour of one of the local Pineapple Plantations while you’re there – the best way to do this is by asking the locals once you arrive.
P.S. We like to eat our pineapple straight off the skin!
Andros: Crab Fest
When: Thursday, June 20, 2019 to Saturday, June 22, 2019
Where: Queen’s Park in Fresh Creek, Central Andros
Contact Info: Andros Tourist Office, (242) 368-2100, (242) 471-8048 or visit their Facebook page
Affectionately named “the Land of Crabs”, it can only be expected that the island of Andros hosts a food festival honouring its historic crabbing industry, featuring all-things-crab. With Andros being the largest island in the Bahamian archipelago, the festivities on display at Crab Fest are equally matched in excitement. Every year, typically the second weekend in June, you’ll encounter activities including cultural demonstrations (e.g. 101 ways of cooking crab, and the releasing of crabs), culinary contests, as well as food vendor and rake n’ scrape galore (here’ s a local jam of “Catch de Crab” to put you in the mood). Highlights include speciality dishes like crab n’ rice, crab soup, and crab n’ dough.
Spanish Wells: Fishermen’s Fest
When: Friday, July 19, 2019 to Saturday, July 20, 2019
Where: Public Park in Spanish Wells, Eleuthera
Contact Info: (242) 333-4409 or www.fishermensfest.com
Cost: Free during daytime hours. $10 on Friday evening, and $15 on Saturday evening after 7:30pm
Credit: Bahamas Local
Intended to celebrate the kickoff of the crawfishing industry around the tiny island community of Spanish Wells (a settlement of Eleuthera), this mid-July festival is designed to bid farewell to local fishermen who would be departing for the opening of the Bahamian crawfish or “spiny lobster” season on August 1. The weekend includes fun activities for the kiddos as well as the grownups, and your fill of native dishes showcasing a variety of seafood like lobster thermidor or conch and rice, drinks, and desserts. Our favorite: their homemade coconut ice cream.
Nassau: Art & Conch Street Festival
New to the festival scene this year is the inaugural Art and Conch Street Festival, combining both artistic and culinary components in the heart of downtown Nassau. On the heels of the 40th Anniversary of the Central Bank of The Bahamas, a financial institution that has had a long-time devotion to and sponsorship of Bahamian arts & culture, this festival is showcasing and selling artwork from over 25 Bahamian visual artists including Jeff Cooper, Anthony Morley, Paulette Mortimer, Trevor Tucker, Attila Fest, and Beatrice Gardiner. It’s also featuring specialty conch dishes, and live performances from local bands both afternoons. Don’t forget to enjoy a bowl of our popular conch delicacy: conch salad while you’re there!