Just imagine… you have set your alarm to wake up at 2:00am on New Years Day to shove your way through the sweaty, anxious crowds to try to catch a view of the parade that has taken over the streets of Nassau, the capital city of the Bahamas…
This is Junkanoo, the massive New Years street carnival of the Bahamas where groups have spent months creating elaborate costumes out of little more than styrofoam, cardboard and crepe paper. They have perfected dance routines and practiced the latest pop hits on cowbells and goatskin drums to join the all-out competition to be crowned the best performance on the island.
Both sides of the streets are lined with revilers and die-hard fans so thick you can barely move for blocks. Locals angle to get a front row view of the dancers and elaborate costumes – packing the temporary stands, filling balconies, and climbing trees and street lights.
The parade is set to the rhythm of brass horns, whistles, cow bells, and drums fashioned from goatskins and oil barrels. Having practiced for months, tonight is the night where’s they’ll put it all on the line!
But the dancers and musicians save their gusto for the main grandstands where the judges are waiting to be entertained and to mark scores for each group based on dance choreography, costumes, music, and overall performance.
There are 6 major groups on the island of Nassau – each consists of thousands of members and each has chosen an elaborate theme that they have spent months building costumes and props around.
At the end of the massive parade the judges will award cash prizes to the top group but more importantly at stake are bragging rights for the next 12 months.
Don’t expect to head home early – by the time each of the 6 groups have each taken 2 trips down the main streets of Nassau it will be after 10:00 in the morning! Don’t forget to grab some grub from the street vendors – conch fritters, conch salad, and chicken wings are what the locals opt for and so should you!
Heading home after the parade is a surreal experience as you’ll walk along side the elaborately costumed but exhausted performers and marveling at the abandoned pieces of over-sized props.
There are 3 viewing options for Junkanoo in Nassau – the bleachers, private balconies, and with the crowd at street level. If you want to buy tickets in advance for the bleachers head to https://junkanootix.com/ and reserve a spot!