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Fabulous festivals

Outdoor festivals abound in Cayman, celebrating the melting pot of cultures that reside here. Whether it’s Prates Week or the Parade of Lights there’s always a fabulous festival to look forward to in Cayman.

When the weather is fine all year round in the islands, it would be a shame not to take full advantage. Outdoor festivals abound in Cayman, celebrating the melting pot of cultures that reside here.

The earlier part of the year throws a spotlight on the arts when Cayfest comes to town, bringing a cornucopia of live poetry readings, dance performances, musical revues, and craft markets along with it. Organised by the Cayman National Cultural Foundation, this festival recognises the contributions of community artists and allows them to showcase their works. Red Sky at Night is a highlight of Cayfest that appeals to everyone. Held in the F.J. Harquail Centre grounds, it sees stalls lined up along a path under a ‘sky’ of red sails, where craftspeople sell their wares. There are local dishes on sale. The Parade of Nations takes place earlier in the evening, where residents from different countries parade in their native costumes, proudly carrying their flags. Live music keeps attendees’ toes tapping throughout the event.

In February, islanders flock to Cocofest held annually at Pedro St. James – a historic site with breathtaking sea views. Families relax on the grass and sit in the shade of mature trees while enjoying the delights of the noble coconut. Vendors offer everything from coconut candy to cakes and more. It’s always a beautiful day out with balmy breezes wafting in over the coast.

Two cut coconuts with straws for drinking coconut water.

Then there is Taste of Cayman, a food festival boasting a field-full of booths representing many of the island’s restaurants. There are competitions, demonstrations and lots of activities throughout the day. Once the sun goes down, people make their way to the main stage to find a good seat for the concert, featuring local and international bands. The night ends with a spectacular firework display.

Come May, a flash of feathers, shimmering sequins, and rhinestones, all the colours of the rainbow, can only mean one thing: Carnival time. Masque balls and street dances ensure that everyone gets caught up in the rhythm and excitement. The highlight of this traditional Caribbean festival is the parade that takes the mas bands along the main thoroughfare of the Seven Mile strip, with steel pan players and DJs providing the music from mobile platforms. Costumed participants interact with those watching along the route, and often gifts are tossed out to the eager crowd.

The fall months certainly have their fair share of festivals, with none more prominent than Pirates Week. Now 44 years strong, this much-anticipated nod to bygone days of buccaneers encourages everyone to get into the spirit by donning their boots and tricorn hats while tucking into some grub and grog. There are dances, parades, the Pirates Landing in George Town, fireworks, and the highly competitive Cardboard Boat Race, which is as much a spectator sport as a competitor. Pirates Week is so popular that fans fly in from overseas every year to be a part of it, eager to have their timbers shivered.

A father and son dressed up as pirates for Pirates week celebrations on Grand Cayman.

Gimistory follows soon after. A festival that celebrates the grand tradition of storytelling, as found throughout the Caribbean. Master local and international spinners-of-tales keep audiences enthralled under the night sky, touring from district to district over a couple of weeks. Gimistory isn’t just a feast for the eyes and ears. At every venue, audiences cannot resist the enticing smell of fried fish and fritters that permeates the air.

As Christmas approaches, crowds gather at Camana Bay to watch vessels in the harbour glide by, adorned with lights and decorations for the annual Parade of Lights. From small Bayliners to large dive boats, all shapes and sizes get into the festive spirit in a bid to win the prize for best display. There is always live music and market stalls, with families gathered along the docks, taking in the magical scene before them. The parade is a big social occasion, with islanders basking in the cooler breezes that winter brings.

Beyond these large festivals, there are many other smaller fairs and celebrations throughout the year. St. Patrick’s Day, Oktoberfest, crawfish boils, and Halloween are just a few examples. There is always something happening every month to keep all ages busy and entertained.