Carnival is our premier cultural event. It’s a riot of colour, noise, dancing and fun. Related celebrations go on for several weeks with activities around the island and the various bands and their followers holding their own events. Even the little ones join in the fun with a r4dedicated kiddies’ carnival parade. And for the music lovers – which means everyone on the island – there are competitions for steel pan players and for performers of soca and calypso songs.

The action peaks on carnival Monday and Tuesday commencing with J’Ouvert, a party that starts before dawn on carnival Monday (July 17) and continues until sunrise. Participants smear mud, paint or coloured powder all over their bodies and make merry!

The culmination of the revelry is the two-day parade of the bands along the specially closed highway from Choc to Castries. This is when inhibitions are thrown to the wind as band members are ‘chippin’ on the road, dressed in their over-the-top, vibrant costumes, moving their waistlines to the pumping rhythms blaring out of the speakers. It’s an experience not be missed! So if you are not participating, go join the throngs of spectators for this amazing show of bacchanal.

Saint Lucia’s carnival used to be held in February, like many other islands, but in 1999 it was moved to July. Here’s a summary of the highlights:

Saturday 1st July      Carnival Queen Pageant – National Cultural Centre, 8 p.m.

Sunday 9th July        Junior Carnival – William Peter Boulevard, Castries, 12 noon

Tuesday 11th July    Vieux Fort Carnival Parade of the Bands – Vieux Fort, 1 p.m.

Tuesday 11th July    Inter-Commercial Calypso Competition – Pigeon Island, 8.30 p.m.

Thursday 13th July   King & Queen of the Bands Competition VENUE? 7 p.m.

Friday 14th July         National Panorama Competition (Steel pan) – Daren Sammy Cricket Ground, Beausejour, 8 p.m.

Saturday 15th July    National Calypso Monarch Finals – Daren Sammy Cricket Ground, 8 p.m.

Sunday 16th July      National Soca Monarch Finals – Daren Sammy Cricket Ground, 8 p.m.

Monday 17th July     National J’Ouvert – Castries, 4 a.m.

Monday 17th July    Parade of the Bands – Choc to Castries, 9 a.m.

Tuesday 18th July   Parade of the Bands – Choc to Castries, 12