Several times over the years, I’ve written about the importance of Junkanoo to Bahamian culture.
For well over a century, Green Turtle Cay residents have gathered on New Year’s Day to welcome in the coming year by donning colourful costumes and marching through town accompanied by a cacophony of cowbells, whistles and the infectious rhythm of goat-skin drums.
But when Hurricane Dorian devastated Green Turtle Cay this past September, the storm not only destroyed the island’s Junkanoo shack where residents gathered to make costumes and to practice, but it also ruined many existing costumes and instruments.
With so many locals left without homes and jobs, and with so much rebuilding to do, it seemed unlikely they’d want (or be able) to stage a 2020 New Year’s Junkanoo rush.
I’ve been blogging less than I’d like over the past month or so, partly because of holiday commitments and partly because I’ve been helping a friend with a project which I hope to be able to share with you soon.
However, we arrived in Green Turtle Cay this past Friday, and I’m excited to get back to Little House by the Ferry and on to the restoration of Fish Hooks.
For a few days each May, tranquil New Plymouth pulses with activity as the Island Roots Heritage Festival takes over the settlement. Originally created to encourage islanders to renew ties with kin in Key West and beyond, today’s festival offers an authentic and entertaining island experience for locals and tourists alike.
Royal Bahamian Defence Force Band Marches Through Town
For visitors, Island Roots is a crash course in local culture. Bahamian artisans display native wood carvings, straw and shell work, fine jewelry and vivid paintings of tropical scenes. Traditional lime-in-spoon races, scavenger hunts, Maypole plaiting, conch-cleaning and conch horn-blowing contests and tug-of-war competitions delight kids of all ages.
It was twilight, a day or two before this year’s Island Roots Heritage Festival was set to begin. Town was quiet and still as I walked our dog, Wrigley, along the Settlement Creek waterfront. But faintly, on the breeze, I heard drums. And cowbells.
I tracked the sound west, past the ferry dock and Curry’s Food Store. The music grew louder as I passed Settlement Point and the freight dock. As I rounded the corner by Sundowners, I came upon this.
In case you don’t recognize the music, these are Junkanoo musicians, practicing for their performance at that weekend’s festival. I’ll post more about the Island Roots Heritage Festival (and Junkanoo) soon. Meanwhile, enjoy this sneak preview.