The island of Barbados’ economy has evolved from its mono-crop dependency in the eighteenth century as the world’s largest sugar producer. But every summer, the island pays tribute to this legacy with a revival of a three-centuries-old harvest festival known as Crop Over. Originally, the festival was meant to cap the long sugar cane growing season with honors to the most productive cane cutters. But today, it has become a celebration of Caribbean culture that briefly overshadows Barbados’ modern fame as the home of pristine beaches, a thriving economy and the birthplace of pop singer Rihanna.
Crop Over was transformed from its origins as a one-day festival to a four-week event by the Barbados Tourism Authority in 1974. Since its modern rebirth, Crop Over has been attracting thousands of visitors from around the world with Calypso music, Soka dancing, street festivals, and, of course, rum. This year’s festival will be preceded by the Cavalcades, a series of outdoor concerts beginning May 3, leading to the official launch on June 28 with the ceremonial delivery of the last harvested canes and the Crop Over Feast. While sugar no longer drives this economy of more than 288,000 people, it remains a staple of the island’s agriculture. It is here that the King and Queen of the Crop are crowned, based on the amount of cane cut throughout the year. Then the party really begins.
The main event is the August 4 Grand Kadooment—a street carnival that some say eclipses neighboring Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival. The party wraps up at the Spring Garden Highway with more music, food, elaborate costumes, and cocktails. Barbados tourist authorities like to boast that Crop Over is the Caribbean’s “sweetest summer festival.” For weary visitors who make it through the duration, it may also be the liveliest.