NATIONAL FESTIVAL SHOWCASES ISLAND CULTURE
Barbados' romantic, laze-on-the-beach appeal lures thousands of visitors to the island each winter. An entire culture rims the island's shores for visitors escaping the harsh winter of their homelands.
Yet visitors thronging to Barbados for its beaches and quaintly back in time appeal miss out on something bigger come summer when the island cooks with culture and music.
It's a time when Ring Bang, Ruk-a-Tuk, calypso, soca, even steel pan and folk peal throughout Barbados. A time when all manner of culture from fine art and craft to masterpiece costumes, unfurl across the land. It's Crop Over, the island's biggest and most colourful national festival; a month-long 'happening' that showcases the heartbeat of the nation.
Crop Over begins in late June and climaxes the first Monday in August with Grand Kadooment, a cavalcade of all the splendour of Bajan culture. A visual eruption of colour, festoons and effervescence, costume bands parade before judges for top prizes, then take to the streets in musical revelry. While Crop Over's climactic Kadooment resembles many carnivals across the Caribbean, the similarity ends there.
This resplendent national celebration is one of the western world's oldest festivals, and in fact, is thought to be the oldest celebration of the post-Colombian era. Crop Over dates back to the days of sprawling sugar cane plantations, over-laden donkey carts trundling along winding dirt roads, and crews of workers toiling in the fields. A time when the plantation was a village unto itself.
This was a period when the end of the crop-and the grueling field work--was cause for celebration. It was a plantation event heralded by the arrival of the last cart of canes. As the final procession of carts made their way into the mill yard, a laborer would beat a make-shift gong announcing the 'Crop Over'. And with that, plantation owners launched bountiful festivities for the field workers.

The merriment was punctuated by lavish spreads of food and drink, along with games and contests, including the now dying art of 'stick-licking' (a game of stick fighting). Dancing and singing dominated, with music an integral element of the event.
From its one-day origin, Crop Over grew into a month of events that span all facets of culture from yesteryear to today. 'Old time' elements mix with the modern to give this festival a flavour unlike any other in the Caribbean.
Original features like the ceremonial delivery of the last canes remain in some form while other elements such as the tremendously popular calypso monarch competition evolved from the days when Crop Over was resurrected after a 30-year hiatus.
In fact, Crop Over about vanished during World War II, but in the early 1970s the then Board of Tourism, now the Barbados Tourism Authority (BTA), sought to reintroduce a visitor-oriented version of the festival as an attraction. Though it fizzled primarily because it lacked local support and authenticity, the seed germinated. Today, organiser of Crop Over, the National Cultural

Foundation (NCF), considers this festival the biggest event on its calendar, and with good reason: Crop Over visitor arrivals have well eclipsed the traditional peak winter season arrivals since 1994.
The festival officially begins on Sunday, June 28 with a Thanksgiving Service at the Spiritual Baptist Church. Also beginning June 28 is the ongoing Crop Over Fine Art & Photography Exhibition, held in the Grand Salle of the Central Bank, Bridgetown.

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