Broad Street, Bridgetown’s traditional centre of commerce, was transformed into a Crop Over showcase last Saturday afternoon when the National Cultural Foundation (NCF) staged the second annual City Fest and Ceremonial Delivery of the Canes.
Despite inclement weather with frequent scattered showers, hundreds of shoppers and onlookers lined the streets of the capital to take in the programme of colourful activities to mark the official start of the four-week-long cultural festival.
From dancers, to stilt walkers, from models to tuk band groups, they each contributed to painting an exciting picture that the Caribbean’s ‘sweetest summer festival’ was finally in full swing. The event, however, was noticeably more low-keyed than last year.
One of the highlights of the parade was the section “Sweet Traditions”, which featured Barbadian characters from the past. Among them, the mauby woman, cane cutters, Mother Sallies, the Barbados Land Ship, and a donkey cart, which was the main mode for transporting cane to the sugar factories before the advent of motorized tractors and lorries.
It was a special day for craft vendor, Marva Ward, who has been an exhibitor in Crop Over for 33 years. Her work was acknowledged and celebrated during the afternoon’s proceedings. Wayne Smith was also acknowledged for support services. For 15 years, he served as a technical officer with the NCF, producers of the festival.
As usual, many times-crowned King and Queen of the Crop, Grantley Hurley and Judy Cumberbatch, were treated as royalty. They were chauffeured through the City in the cars reserved as prizes for the winners of the 2015 Sweet Soca and Party Monarch competitions.
Officially launching the festival, Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley expressed delight as he reported that overseas interest in Crop Over was on the rise. “Crop Over Festival has grown our foreign exchange earnings in a very substantial way,” he remarked.
“This event, of course, would’ve been the trigger to our celebrations of our festival. Where we join together, we reflect but we also celebrate the bringing of another Crop Over Festival. It’s a wonderful time of the year that brings out all Barbadians and visitors to one place, celebrating Crop Over like no other nation could,” he said.
Lashley stressed the serious side of the festival and urged Barbadians not to forget the reasons that contributed to its genesis. “. . . . We sometimes miss [the profundity] in all the merriment of the moment. Crop Over is a celebration of our identity as a people,” he said.
Lashley went on: “Crop Over hails …all of those who would have toiled in our cane fields to make our society the kind that we are today. We must not, as we make merry, forget our plantations, the conflicts that could have taken place … as our ancestors fought for freedom.”
“We have to remember that at the heart of our festival must be the retention of our cultural heritage,” he also said.