Barbados’ Must-Visit Summer Carnival: Crop Over

Crop Over
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What to know about Barbados’ must-visit event: Crop Over

By Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon
CJ Travel Editor

Trinidad’s pre-Lenten Carnival is the Caribbean’s most famous festival, but Crop Over, the mid-summer Bajan bacchanal that traditionally marks the end of the sugar cane harvest, is also a must-do for soca-loving sun-seekers. Comprising a full two months of non-stop partying, it crescendos on the first Monday in August, Kadooment Day, when thousands of costumed revelers march from the national stadium in a raucous parade of heaving cleavage, sweaty skin and scantily-clad glitter-streaked bodies, gyrating as one to driving island beats. This year I went, I wined, and I “wukked up” at Crop Over for the very first time. And here’s what I learned.

1. Work Out Crop Over isn’t a sprint; it’s an endurance event. And all that Mount Gay-fueled fêting, those late nights, and the enthusiastic sampling of sweet bread and souse will definitely take their toll. So, even though Crop Over 2017 is 11 months away, it’s never too early to start prepping your bod for the onslaught. Take up running, strength training (or both!) to build a cardio base that will withstand the rigors of reveling. And if you’re lucky enough to live in a city with a soca-cize class near you, take it.

2. Save Up At any time of year Barbados is notoriously expensive, and as Crop Over culminates it only beomces more so. Booking your hotel and airfare early is a no-brainer (yes, go ahead and do it now). Then there are those all-inclusive breakfast, boat and night fetes, which start at $100 a ticket. And if you want to carouse in costume, know that all that feathered finery can cost hundreds of dollars, depending on the complexity of the outfit. Put away those pennies now, people.

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3. Listen Up Who got me through miles of marching in the midday sun? All credit goes to Voice, Peter Ram, King Bubba, Fadda Fox and Marvay, whose monster soca hits Cheers To Life, Good Morning, Calling In Sick, Dirty Habits, and Know the Face gave me the energy to endure. A few weeks before I left Facebook friends clued me into Crop Over’s big tunes, so by the time I touched down in Bim I already had my favorites. And when I heard them blasting from giant speaker boxes it was just the jolt my flagging body needed. So before you depart, head over to DJ Private Ryan’s website (djprivateryanmusic.com), download the latest mixes, and thank me later.

4. Find The Fetes If you’re not lucky enough to have contacts on island, surf over to ticketpal.com for the Crop Over fete schedule and to purchase tickets in advance of your arrival.

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5. Pace Yourself This nugget applies to Crop Over in general and Kadooment Day specifically. With a full daily schedule of breakfast, day and night fetes, unless you’re a pro partier or Crop Over veteran, you’ll need to be choosy about which ones you attend (and how long you stay). And on K Day, there’s no need to prance down the road at top speed. “Chip” at a leisurely pace; pause frequently to “tek” or “teif” a wine; and remember to hydrate with liquids other than the alcoholic kind.

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6. Forget Sleep For someone like me, who needs a solid seven hours of slumber, Crop Over was a (ahem!) rude awakening. Serious partiers roll in from reveling after sunrise, grab a bite and a shower, and then head right back out. And they do this day after day. So resign your self to grabbing winks in the car between parties and, if you’re lucky, on the beach while you work on that Crop Over glow. You can sleep at home.

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7. Take A Stand Think you’re going to sit on the sidelines when the partying gets too hard? Think again. I noticed a dearth of seating at the fetes I attended; you’re here to dance after all! But by day three my “dogs” were most definitely barking, not just from all the dancing but from standing way more than I was used to. You have been warned.

8. Expect Rain August is a rainy month in Barbados, so expect a downpour at any time. But that doesn’t mean that the party “dun.” It just means that you need to bring your “rain game” to outdoor fetes held on grassy estate grounds. Sneakers or flat closed-toe shoes (also an essential on Kadooment Day) and waterproof makeup are your friends, and “ixnay” white pants and trailing maxis.

 

9. Keep It Casual The Crop Over dress code: as bare as you wanna be. For both day and night events, short shorts, crop tops and skintight stretchy dresses are de rigueur for women, with heavy makeup and intricate hairstyles icing the sartorial cake. Men can get away with jeans, shorts, a few smart button-downs and cool graphic T-shirts (all eyes are on the women, anyway).

10. There Will Be Burnout Despite taking all my advice, the truth is that you’ll likely return from Crop Over exhausted, albeit exhilarated. As I departed BGI a security officer asked how I’d enjoyed my visit. I told him it was fun but really tiring. His reply: “Perfect! That’s how you know you’ve done Crop Over right.”