Festive Friday, the latest after-work lime in Barbados, has been given the stamp of approval by hundreds of Bajans and visitors. The weekly event organised by the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI) kicked off last Friday at the Pelican Craft Centre with an inaugural night market and a “Riddum Route Bottle and Spoon Experience”.
Locals and tourists shouted “We feel so good” as they danced along Trevor’s Way in the mini carnival.
Others lined the streets and indulged in colourful snow cones drizzled with condensed milk, breadfruit bowls by Chef Gregory Austin, freshly milled cane juice and lamb burgers prepared by Bar Cutters with the island’s indigenous Black Belly Sheep.
Craft vendors sold ceramics, clothes, jewellery and various artifacts and as the night wound down, patrons partied to hit after hit from Lil Rick, Hypasounds, John Yarde and Red Plastic Bag.
Festive Friday was conceptualized by the BTMI to encourage cruise passengers to stay longer on the island, spend more and enjoy an authentic “night party” that they would experience no other place in the Caribbean.
Minister of Tourism, Kerrie Symmonds, explained that a recent study by Business Research and Economic Advisors showed that cruise passengers visiting the island spent approximately US$65.
Stating this was “completely reprehensible because Barbados can do better,” he noted that on Fridays when cruise ships berthed in the port, the 2,000 to 3,000 passengers on board could now enjoy Barbados by day and by night.
Officials from Freedom of the Seas of Royal Caribbean Cruise agreed to let the ship dock longer in the Port of Bridgetown so that passengers could experience the event.
“They saved the best for last!” the Reyes family of six from New York said excitedly to a team from the Barbados Government Information Service (BGIS).
“We are happy we got to stay longer, out of all the islands this is the best one and we’ve been to five islands. They extended the hours on land, people are having a good time and we would encourage this.”
Melody Reyes said during the day her family visited the beach and swam with the turtles but experiencing the Barbadian night “festival” was simply awesome.
“It’s the culture; you see it and feel it. Everyone is dancing, the drums, the guys on the stilts, and the drinks and music are amazing. There is so much life; it makes you want to dance. We have to come back!”
Second-time visitor Rose Lopez said she and her friends from New York had a blast.
“It’s so vibrant, the love, respect and energy are positive. You could not tell this was the first event. The festival was nice; people who were selling stuff were nice, the food was seasoned well and tasted good. This is an island that I will continually come back to, I feel at home here.”
Jacob Garrett, a crew member on board the cruise ship was enjoying a breadfruit bowl when the BGIS team chatted with him. He said Festive Fridays was heavily promoted on board.
“This is fantastic, it gives us a real chance to see the evening party mode… so for crew members it’s really nice to come back outside to experience the culture, the food and the music. I want to come back and do a week surfing trip. This kind of event with the music and the night life tells me there is something to do besides just lying on the beach all day,” he said.
In addition to praising Festive Friday, visitors rated Barbados their favorite stop on the seven-day cruise as they found Barbadians to be very pleasant and friendly.
Melony Thompson-Sellars from Denburg, Colorado said: “It’s very cool to see the locals and everybody at the event, it’s not just us tourists. We like to party! At the other ports, people would grab our hands and pull us to their things, you guys didn’t do that here and we appreciate that. It makes us want to go see more stuff and spend our money because you are not shoving it down our throats so that is nice.”
Michelle, a Barbadian, said she and her friends planned to make Festive Friday their weekly liming spot. “The atmosphere was pretty good, I like the fact that I didn’t just see tourists here, I saw locals and locals that you don’t normally see at a street event.
“It makes sense to try to capture the cruisers, the world has changed and dynamics have changed. You have a lot of young people working for more money now who are looking to come out and enjoy themselves. So we should get repeat tourists/visitors out of things like this.”
Klebere Perry said she thought the location was excellent and gave the event two thumbs up.
“Pelican Village is one of those places we need to highlight more. It houses most of the locally produced arts in Barbados; we need to focus on this side as it’s so close to the port, it’s a great way of highlighting what’s here”.
Vendor Jamal Hall of Bar Cutters said Festive Friday was a “fantastic fit” for his business.
“Tourists and Bajans love our fish and our lamb burgers which are made with the black belly sheep so when anyone tastes our lamb burgers, they taste a piece of Barbados.”
He loved that Pelican Village was the location and said he believed the event could revitalize the entire area.
“As long as locals remain involved, this could be massive. The cruise ships visit every single week with a different set of tourists looking for an adventure and this is an adventure. If you make a strong Bajan product, the tourists will come because they want to experience Barbadiana.
“We do have a strong and rich culture; Bajans can come, enjoy themselves and go back home with a positive experience. Fantastic, you can’t get anything better, I hope the BTMI builds on the event and it’s something that goes on for years to come,” Mr. Hall said.
Festive Friday begins at 4:00 p.m., with the Riddim Route beginning at 7:00 p.m.