THE ANNUAL Antigua Carnival returns to the beautiful twin islands of Antigua and Barbuda from July 25 to August 6 for 10 days of celebration, countless pre-carnival fetes and panorama competitions which combine to make this the Caribbean’s greatest summer festival.
Imagine an island whose coastline is rimmed with the most beautiful beaches in the world, where a warm tropical breeze mingles intimately with coconut trees and where in the summer months, the sweetest mangoes and pineapples are there to tease your taste buds on every corner.
Pre-carnival fetes fill the days and nights, pan yards are bursting with the sweet sound of calypso being played on oil drums as groups prepare for the Panorama competition. The mas camps are open day and night putting together costumes to adorn the bodies of the thousands of revellers that will soon fill the streets, while pageantry hopefuls practice through the nights in anticipations of winning coveted titles. Yes, we are referring the richest cultural event in the region – Antigua’s Carnival.
Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Ambassador Sir Viv Richards (right) is joined by tour operators and the press at the launch of Antigua Carnival 2019 in London
Once you step foot on this beautiful twin island from mid-July to mid-August, the locals are there to remind you that you are visiting during a truly significant time. This event, which celebrates the island’s emancipation from slavery in 1834, has morphed into 10 days of celebration. It’s a fusion of culture from all parts of the Caribbean which make this carnival the region’s greatest summer festival.
Going into its 63rd year, Antigua’s Carnival is definitely unique, recognised worldwide for its display of arts, culture, music and revelry. The festival fuses together creative talents and skills that burst into a kaleidoscope of colour and entertainment, leaving no room for dull moments. From nights of elegant pageantry, to the rhythmic sound of the steel pan or iron band, visitors and residents alike are trapped in a party frenzy, fulfilling their cultural cravings by the end of the festivities.
Antigua’s Carnival proudly stands as a household name and has been added to many “to do” lists regionally and internationally. There are so many things that one can look forward to in such a short space of time as the annual celebration incorporates every single cultural aspect of the country.
CARNIVAL COSTUMES: One of the many costumes on display at the launch of Antigua Carnival 2019 in London
For anyone who wants an insight or perhaps a hands-on experience of the Antiguan culture, then visiting between late July and August will address every question and leave you wanting more. One thing you can expect to see are thousands of intricate, handmade costumes exuberating with festive colours, lavish feathers, gems, and sequins gleaming in the tropical sun.
Whether you are busy getting sprayed with water and paint at the crack of dawn during the massive J’ouvert, waving your rags and jumping to your favourite infectious soca song, or simply banging on an old frying pan in the iron band, you are guaranteed a good time. Even if you are one of the thousands lined up at the side of the road watching the splendour unfold, you are in for a festive feast as Carnival is for everyone.
Daryll Matthew, the minister for culture, sports, national festivals and the arts, has announced that this year’s installment of Antigua’s Carnival will see some modifications to its lineup and schedule which will allow the festival to properly position itself with modern trends of Carnival. It is Matthew’s strong vision for the festivals to focus on what makes Antigua this melting pot of culture, which is reflective in its diverse populous.
PICTURED: Daryll Matthew, Antigua’s Minister of Sports, Culture, National Festivals and the Arts, speaking at the launch of Antigua Carnival 2019 in London
The minister guarantees that visitors to the 2019 Carnival will be intrigued and will make this festival a staple on their calendar. Speaking during a recent visit to London, Matthew explains why this year’s Carnival will be different.
He said: “We will have four main parade events, opening with the T-shirt Mas on Saturday, July 27 where revelers will be able to promote different types of social messages on their t-shirts and we anticipate about 18,000 people will participate in this. Traditional J’ouvert celebrations will be on Sunday, while Carnival Monday will be used as an expression of culture to bring back the original images of carnival which will include John Bull (Junkanoo) and stilt walkers.
Antigua and Barbuda High Commissioner Ms Karen-Mae Hill, Daryll Matthew, Minister of Sports, Culture, National Festivals and the Arts and Ms Cherrie Osborne, Director of Tourism UK & Europe at Antigua Carnival 2019 launch in London
“In addition, costume bands from other islands close to Antigua like Guadalupe and Dominica and those from the wider Caribbean including Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica will also be participating on the day. Carnival Tuesday will be the ‘Last Lap’ finale to the celebrations when the variety of costumes, floats and bands take to the streets for one big party.”
From July 25 to August 6 2019, witness the transformation, taste the culture, and avoid the regret of not visiting Antigua and Barbuda, for the Caribbean’s Greatest Summer Festival. You’ve got to experience it to believe it!