Culture Brought to The Forefront At Bahamas Music and Heritage Festival
Hundreds of tourists and Bahamians flocked to Regatta Park in George Town, Exuma on March 12-14 for the cultural explosion of the annual Bahamian Music and Heritage Festival.
The festival, which is a signature event of the Ministry of Tourism, celebrated its 11th year.
Under the theme, “Celebrating the islands…we’re going island hopping” the event was a culmination of food, fun and some friendly competition.
Various activities like educational storytelling, poetry readings, Bahamian history corner, arts and crafts, Bahamian dance lessons, sugar cane peeling, onion peeling and conch eating contests and culinary and bartending competitions kept visitors busy during the day.
Food choices from the various Family Islands were also in abundance as you could find anything from smooth, cool daiquiris to savory peas n’ rice, crab and rice, seafood pizzas and authentic Bahamian bush teas.
At night, the festival was transformed into an all-star Bahamian concert with performances from local gospel and secular artists.
Names like Cacique winner Nehemiah Hield, Al Gibson, the Sandals Choir, Prophet Lawrence Rolle – the singing bishop, Veronica Bishop, Cindy Romer, Geno D, Puzzle, the Spank Band and Dillon ‘D’Mac’ McKenzie were all among the artists who performed at this year’s concert.
Mr. Gibson, a 42-year gospel veteran and a proud Exumian, performed on the first and second nights of the festival.
He said he has travelled worldwide but always looks forward to performing at the Bahamas Music and Heritage Festival.
“No matter where in the world, I am mindful of this arrangement. I am even booked for next year. Whenever I leave home I go to represent The Bahamas and everyone knows I live in Exuma – the one place on earth where God really lives in,” he said.
The festival capped off with a performance from ‘D’Mac’.
The Cacique winner, who is also originally from Exuma, said it was his third time performing at the concert but it would not be his last.
“It is a humbling experience. This is home and this is where I am most of the time when I am not in Nassau. I’m glad that the people appreciate me and let me close out the show,” he said.
“It’s things like the heritage festival with the various foods and the various talents that shows the younger people what our culture is all about and how we celebrate it. So it is a great thing that the Ministry of Tourism is doing.”
There were also a number of surprise acts like a Junkanoo rush out by the Exuma band featuring Bahamas Carnival models, a circus performance by the Emanji Circus, limbo dancing by ‘Sweetboy Leroy’ and a special dance performance by the Juice unit.
Director of Events Charity Armbrister said she was thrilled to see an increase in tourists at the event.
“We are very pleased with the way this weekend has turned out. There were so many tourists. While I appreciate our local support it really makes me feel so good to see so many visitors,” she said.
“They actually stayed longer than I anticipated because they were having such a wonderful time. I am pleased that the hoteliers supported the event, encouraged their persons to come especially those persons coming from Sandals Emerald Bay who were bused here. They had a great time.”
Tourists Mike and Gina Alban from Brandon, Florida were ecstatic to be at the festival.
“We’ve been coming to The Bahamas for 21 years, this is my sixth trip to the islands and I know they started the Bahamian Music and Heritage Festival about 11 years ago. We’ve always enjoyed it and wanted to come back for it,” Mr. Alban said.
“We love the island. We love the experience and every time we get a chance to get away for a weekend this is where we come.”
“The people are so kind and courteous here and they make you feel at home,” Ms. Alban said.
Mike and Donna Malone from Ohio had similar sentiments.
Mr. Malone came to Exuma to celebrate his birthday said there was no place in the world he would rather be.
“Three years ago I came here and I noticed that there was a music heritage festival here. My nephew has a place here and I said I have to bring Donna back here because this is the greatest place in the world. I think we are going to bring other people back to the festival next year,” he said.
Sponsors of the event included the Ministry of Tourism, Burns House Limited, Odyssey Aviation, Sandals Emerald Bay, 98.3FM Exuma Breeze and Club Peace and Plenty of Exuma.