Antigua’s Carnival - ‘The Caribbean’s Greatest Summer Festival’ - kicks off July 27

Antigua’s Carnival – ‘The Caribbean’s Greatest Summer Festival’ – kicks off July 27

TORONTO — Carnival in Antigua and Barbuda is known as ‘The Caribbean’s Greatest Summer Festival’ – and here’s why.

Excitement arrives at the beautiful destination of Antigua and Barbuda in late July with this year’s highly anticipated Carnival celebration, boasting plenty of music and ‘Mas’. Mas, short for masquerade, is a much-loved tradition that gives everyone a chance to show off their creativity by fashioning traditional Carnival costumes while parading and dancing to their choice of music.

As Carnival officially begins, the lively sounds of calypso, steelpans and soca mingle with the laughter and cheers of locals and visitors alike.

Dates for this year’s celebration are July 27 – Aug. 8.

Carnival is perhaps the best time for visitors to plan their getaway to Antigua, to get a real insight into the culture and to understand and share the joy felt by Antiguans. The history of Carnival dates back to the island-wide celebrations on Aug.1, 1834 when slavery was abolished. Starting in 1957, Antigua had its first official carnival celebration. Since then, the festival has grown and evolved into 13 joyous days of music, dance and revelry, complete with street marches, ‘jump-ups’ and formal evening shows.

Antigua’s Carnival - ‘The Caribbean’s Greatest Summer Festival’ - kicks off July 27


The Caribbean’s traditional music is an integral part of Antigua’s Carnival, and there are more than a few distinct varieties to dance the night away to. Calypso competitions have always been a highlight of the Antigua Carnival. Antigua and Barbuda are also home to many of the Caribbean’s finest steelpan bands. And Soca, an abbreviation of the soul of calypso, has been an integral feature of the Antigua Carnival for decades.

Antigua’s Carnival - ‘The Caribbean’s Greatest Summer Festival’ - kicks off July 27


On opening day, the streets of Saint John’s are filled with colourful costumes, beauty pageants, talent shows and enough music for everyone. The Recreation Ground is renamed Carnival City. It’s the destination for the parades which wend their way around town accompanied by troupes of wildly costumed dancers, extravagant floats and their multitude of bands and supporters wearing not much more than paint and T-Shirts.

The first and second days of August are public holidays in Antigua when nearly two weeks of Carnival celebrations conclude in spectacular fashion. J’ouvert is celebrated on the first day of August. The term is derived from the Creole word for daybreak when the party is always in full swing. Emancipation Day marks the date in 1834 when slavery was abolished on the island. It is said that every Antiguan and Barbudan ran out into the streets to celebrate their newfound freedom and the tradition continues to this day.

The festivities include the Party Monarch and Calypso Monarch competitions of calypsonians, where entertainers who compose and sing calypsos vie to show off their best. The Panorama steel band competition brings together some of the best in the Caribbean. The spectacular Parade of Bands melds all styles of music with the addition of brass bands for a joyous parade in which all can participate. The most beautiful ladies in the islands come out for the Miss Antigua Pageant and the Caribbean Queens Competition. In addition to these major proceedings, the nonstop revelry of the Carnival includes countless smaller festivities, including local concerts, food fairs, parades and cultural shows.

The Carnival calendar includes something for every age, including Queen of Carnival (July 23), Official Opening (July 27), Youth Rave (July 28), Junior Carnival and Junior Calypso (July 30),  Drue’s Day and Emancipation Watch Night (Aug. 1), J’ouvert and Carnival Monday (Aug. 7) and Parade of the Bands and Last Lap (Aug. 8).

All the information about travelling to Antigua and Barbuda, and taking in the high-energy Carnival celebrations, can be found at

Antigua’s Carnival - ‘The Caribbean’s Greatest Summer Festival’ - kicks off July 27

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