We heard the beating drums before we even stepped off the dock. We could feel the energy long before we made it to the staging area. We were on our way to the Marsh Harbour Junior Junkanoo. Junkanoo is a celebration of the Bahamian Culture centered around music, dancing and incredibly elaborate costumes. Think Mardi Gras, but in the Bahamas. Junkanoo is an annual event traditionally held around Boxing Day or New Years Day in Freeport and Nassau, but in Marsh Harbour it happened to be in the middle of February exactly when we were in town. Lucky us! It is a two day festival with Junior Junkanoo held the first night and Adult Junkanoo the next.
For the Marsh Harbour Junior Junkanoo schools from all around the Abaco Islands compete as a group for prize money in different categories. Costumes are handmade for each participant around a theme. Costumes can only be worn once so new ones are made each year. Costumes are mainly made from papier-maché and then decorated with sequins and glitter. The more elaborate and bigger costumes are held up with wiring and can weigh up to 200 pounds! I didn’t see anyone complaining about their costume either, everyone was just lively and energized. Each school brings their own band made up of drums, horns, cowbells, whistles and rake & scrape instruments and they set the tone for the group. Music echos down the street and you can’t help but to start moving to the beat. The schools perform their routines as they slowly (like, snail speed slow) make their way down the street. Most schools introduce their theme with a float and the costumes of the individual members are portions of the theme. One school was the Four Seasons with members dressed as Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. This school even managed to snag sponsors. I kid you not, Fall (who was dressed as a turkey) was sponsored by KFC. Another school’s theme was mermaids and sea life. We had such a fun night witnessing this cultural celebration.