A Festival Like No Other
The friendly island of St. Maarten is home to one of the hottest festivals in the world: The St. Maarten Carnival. Since its inception in 1970, the carnival has grown to incredible levels. What started with government employees getting together and hosting activities for the Queen’s birthday (April 30th) has become one of the most sought out festivals in the Caribbean.
Since 1990, The St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation (SCDF) has been in charge of organizing the month long activities with the help of sponsors and government funding. The St. Maarten Carnival offers locals and tourists a wide array of parades and concerts starting at the end of March and going till the first week of May.
It all starts with the “Causeway Jump Up” where everyone is invited to “jump” (mainly walking and dancing behind trucks playing Soca) and officially launch the month long party. Then come the Queen pageant, the Light Parade, swim suit competitions, Band competitions, The Teen and Senior Pageant, Flag Fest, the popular Bacchanal Wet Fete, the Soca Rumble, Jouvert Morning Jump Up, DJ competitions, Reggae concerts, Latino Festival and the culmination of it all with the Grand Carnival Parade.
Carnival Village is an open, semi-circular structure, almost stadium-like in design, that consists of 79 connected booths. Booths are little bar-like spaces that are transformed into eateries and commercial spaces for the duration of Carnival. Carnival Village is the epicenter of everything Carnival related.
It has a state-of-the-art concert stage, VIP bleacher seating and conference rooms. Officially named “The St. Maarten Festival Village” this venue is renamed “Carnival Village” once Carnival descends on St. Maarten every year. Imagine standing in a football stadium being surrounded by 79 mini restaurants and other commercial outlets.
The “Village”, as it is affectionately abbreviated, caters to culinary taste. Cuisine from almost every nationality that makes up the melting pot that is St. Maarten, is available in Carnival Village. From St. Maarten’s own barbecue chicken/ribs, johnny cakes, conch and dumplings and more, to delicacies from Suriname, Trinidad, Dominica, India and Curacao.
Besides the booths that offer food, there are other booths that offer Carnival merchandise, toys for children, phone services, a dedicated ATM machine and a permanent police sub-station within. At night all 79 booths remain open for the major local and international concerts and world renowned artists that take center stage.
Located in Philipsburg, Carnival Village hosts all of the concerts and pageants during the month long party.
Jouvert Morning Jump Up
One of the most popular carnival events is Jouvert Morning which starts at 4AM in the streets of Philipsburg and sees thousands of partygoers jump behind various floats pumping loud music as they walk around the pond. Expect to get dirty, from the paint/powder being thrown around, tired and probably a little inebriated from all of the free drinks you’ll receive. Close to 5,000 participants were counted during the last Jump Up and that number grows every year. The morning ends with everyone ending up in the Village for some lunch and more partying until the DJ competition (between the French and Dutch side) later that night.
The Grand Carnival Parade
Troupe members in the most exquisite costumes take the streets in this final carnival event. Islanders form groups (called troupes) and parade under their own themes. A family event that lasts all afternoon, the Grand Carnival Parade is a colorful display of unity and island pride.
The St. Maarten Carnival is a full month of activities that is sure to have something for everyone. Check out their official website for exact dates for next year’s St. Maarten Carnival. You do not want to miss it!