From the time we heard the news in April that the 2022 Crop Over Festival was a go we felt a sense of joy mixed with reservation. Like many others we too pondered the staging of this mass event as the country was battling the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
But this sweet summer festival, born out of a rich cultural and slave heritage, clearly remains treasured by Bajans from all walks of life. Crop Over’s origins emerged from the days when slaves celebrated the harvest they had laboured on all year round. The African-descendants took a pause from their oppressive slave masters to come together for a grand time of food, music, fun and festival.
Today, Crop Over remains an intrinsic part of our culture. Crop Over is a significant money-earner as the Governor of the Central Bank Cleviston Haynes reminded us on Wednesday. Crop Over continues to be the event that brings people together as “one feting family”. It’s a celebration where all things Bajan are on display and embraced second only to Independence.
Notwithstanding a few rumblings, thus far the festival has had some stand out moments.
The Crop Over Sweet Limes put on by the National Cultural Foundation (NCF) was a great way of bringing the festival to communities. As the Sweet Limes moved from location to location the vibe was building. In a story published by this media house, the NCF reported that many of the shop owners sold out and many patrons stayed on to lime well after the live acts had ended.
The official opening of the festival at the island’s lone Ωugar factory was another big moment. Portvale Factory was transformed as hundreds made their way to the free event which started at the historic Rock Hall Freedom Village.
The story of the slave trade in Barbados was brought to the fore as well as the significance of the sugar industry to poor Barbadian families. The stories of heritage were told at that event held July 2. Craft vendors, visual artistes, culinary specialists, mixologists, breadfruit, fishcakes and all things that say Barbados were present. The rain poured but the crowd stayed. The Vintage Calypso Tent was the icing on the cake as the evening came to a close.
That event along with other private ones such as Powda began to set the stage for what would transpire over the weeks to come. From all reports in our Crop Over Pulse magazine, the fetes all recorded large crowds. It didn’t seem to matter the price of an event, the cost of an outfit or transportation, the partygoers simply wanted to reconnect with those they hadn’t seen in years and have a good time. Our cameras spotted some familiar faces in the crowd simply enjoying the vibe.
But it wasn’t only the fetes that recorded great attendance. The NCF’s Central Bank Visual Arts Exhibition, the Scotiabank Junior Monarch, the Junior Masquerade Project, and the Courts ICBL Folk Concert were all well-received.
The live-streaming of events seemed to have affected those viewing, encouraging them to join in the festivities. So that while some were cautious in the beginning, that initial fear, brought on by COVID-19 has dissipated.
The Ministry of Health’s lifting of some COVID-19 protocols helped to propel this as well. Patrons were no longer required to wear masks outdoors, show proof of vaccination to enter an event or get tested.
This removal of what some saw as hindrances also allowed travellers to get on a plane and enjoy the activities without having to quarantine.
The crowds are mixed. Some are without masks while others prefer to take the precaution. People seem very aware that the virus is present but at the same time they are determined to make the most of the annual festival which was last staged in 2019.
As the climax weekend is upon us and the season is galloping towards a successful close, we pray that what obtained over the last few weeks continues. We are hopeful that events remain incident-free, people continue to designate a driver when drinking, and the COVID-19 protocols and self-care are tantamount in people’s minds.
We await word on the success of all the privately-staged fetes over the weekend.
We look forward to the crowning of a Calypso Monarch whether Classic retains his title or a new monarch is named. We await the keen battle that is set to take place at Kensington Oval on Friday. We are excited about the theatrics, props and show that has become a major part of the Pic O De Crop Finals.
We look forward to the paint, mud and powder of the Foreday Morning Jam. And of course, we look forward to the colourful and spectacular street parade on Grand Kadooment Day, August 1.
We never imagined what Crop Over 2022 would look like; how successful or unsuccessful it might have turned out to be. What we do know now is that there are enough gains and inroads made this year, in staging the festival during a pandemic, that should make Crop Over 2023 an even bigger and better spectacle.