BVI Emancipation Festival


Sister celebrating BVI Emancipation Festival

Sister celebrating BVI Emancipation Festival in Tortola; credit BVI Tourism Board

BVI Emancipation Festival

BVI Emancipation Festival is a two week long, annual festival from end of July to around the 10th of August each year. As elsewhere in the Caribbean, its a celebration of African ancestors’ freedom from colonialism that weaves in traditional, gospel & modern music, folklore presentations, and ultra-fresh cuisine. Most of all, its a grand celebration of British Virgin Island history and pageantry with merriment for all.

The Emancipation Festival celebrates the 1834 proclamation that freed slaves in the British Virgin Islands. To commemorate the proclamation that occurred on August 1st, many events and activities occur on Tortola with public officials. Given that Tortola is the most populated of the four main BVI islands, Road Town draws the largest crowds and festivities. It seems like every restaurant has booth featuring Caribbean food throughout the weeks. But then others want to showcase their family cooking traditions in booths too.

Festival Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are three days of public holidays. Though the events take place throughout the weeks up to the three holidays, these are great days for visiting, because locals partake in most festivities. There are also smaller festival events at Carrot Bay and on East End.

Festival Monday features the grande parade and Rise and Tramp. dancers and bands start at 4am. Some bystanders dress up and join the parade. The street party ends at a beach, with everyone jumping in and refreshing themselves in the sea to start the day. That alone is an amazing event to experience.

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