The Short Stay: Junkanoo Carnival in the Bahamas

I’m on the East Coast, Pittsburgh to be exact. We’ve endured a seemingly never ending winter, so making a trip to the white sand and clear water beaches of Grand Bahama Island was a much-needed reprieve. Given the ambitious launch of direct flights from PGH airport to the island just 55 miles off the coast of South Florida, of course, I jumped at the opportunity to make the trek. To my surprise, it just so happened to be during one of the most exciting times on the island, the first ever Junkanoo Carnival on Grand Bahama Island. A quick flight out of cold dreary Pittsburgh,  I was ready for some Caribbean sun and some humidity.

Upon my arrival, I was greeted with the cool Bahamian breeze coming off the ocean.  A short drive from the airport I arrived in nearby Lucaya and got situated at my home base for the weekend, The Grand Lucayan. Each of the 542 rooms in the hotel offer a spectacular view of either the marina or a stunning view overlooking the ocean and over the infinity edge pool below, a perfect place to sit and watch the sunset each night while sipping local brew.  The resort had something to offer everyone, from a rejuvenating spa to a Robert Trent Jones Jr. designed golf course, the options to keep you busy during your trip are endless, and I had every intention of taking advantage. After a relaxing evening exploring the hotel and shops, I retired early so I could be well rested for a long day and night ahead partying on the beach at the Junkanoo Carnival.

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The Grand Lucayan Resort.
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The Grand Lucayan Resort in  Lucaya.

Our first stop of the day was at the Bahamas Perfume Factory, where we got to see the process of bottling your own unique perfume or cologne.  A thorough process from the start where you choose which oils you want to mix together to produce a cologne and scent that is unique only to you, to the final bottling stages where your new cologne is ready to take home with you.  From there we ventured on to the Sand’s brewery to see how the Bahamian made beer is brewed and bottled.  Tasting each of the brewery’s creations, we sat in the tap room and learned the stories behind each of the beers but I must say Sands High Rock Lager might be my favorite of the brews.

As Friday night rolled around, I was ready and prepared for the kickoff of the Junkanoo Carnival set on the shores of Taino Beach.  For the first time ever Grand Bahama Island was host to their own version of the Junkanoo Carnival that usually takes place in Nassau.  I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I looked at the schedule for the night and it said that the “Midnight Rush” was going to end around 6:30 a.m, and they weren’t kidding.

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Junkanoo Dancers on stage bringing fans on to join in on the fun.
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Traditional Junkanoo Dancers.

The main attraction for the Carnival was the Music Master’s Song Competition, where some of the top contemporary artists from the Bahamas were all competing against each other for a chance to be crowned the Music Master. Each and every performance throughout the two nights displayed not only the talented singers/songwriters but the pride they had for their home country which was evident the moment they hit the stage. Song after song you could feel the energy of the crowd rising and rightly so, Midnight Rush was set to begin. After the final song was finished the audience rushed onto the street to jump in the line and dance the night away, literally, with bands of Junkanoo dancers and musicians.  Decorated from head to toe in flashy costumes adorned with feathers, jewels, and other trinkets, the Junkanoo dancers were bringing the party onto the street until the early hours of each morning.

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D-Mac performing on stage with the Junkanoo Dancers.

Something that has to be experienced all on your own, the Junkanoo Carnival on Grand Bahama Island is one of the best ways to dive right into the Bahamian Culture. A fusion of everything Bahamian from the native cuisine, local drinks, and traditional Junkanoo dancers will show you just what being a proud Bahamian really means. So sit back, grab a Gullywash (Gin mixed with Coconut Water and Condensed Milk) and Conch Salad, and enjoy the festivities and history unfolding in front of your eyes at this one of a kind spectacle, the Junkanoo Carnival.

Dreaming of getting away? Take a look at some more images captured during the trip and you will want to be on the next flight out to create your own story on Grand Bahama Island.

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The White sand and crystal blue water beaches of Grand Bahama Island.
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The Garden of the Groves. Freeport, Bahamas.
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Explore the Island in your very own Jeep with Grand Bahama Nature Tours.
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Taino Beach Club Boardwalk.
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A taste of Bone Marrow at the Flying Fish Restaurant.
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The Infinity Pool at the Grand Lucayan.
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The Spirit of the Junkanoo Festival and Bahamian pride.
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The drive through a smoky Lucayan National Forest in our Jeep.

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Ryan Neeven

|Editor at Large, A&H Magazine| Travel Well, Travel Often.