I love the sights, sounds and most importantly the eats at festivals. These are my top three ‘MUST-DO’ annual village festivals.
FESTIVAL DEL MAR
IF YOU LOVE seafood, then Festival Del Mar is a must. This annual seafood festival held in the picturesque and tranquil fishing village of Island Harbour is the most anticipated ‘lime’ of the Easter weekend. Since its inception in 2008, I have never missed it once I am on island.
For two full days (Saturday and Sunday), the sleepy village of Island Harbour is abuzz. Tents and temporary structures line the beach and from them waft the tantalising smells of grilled lobster and crayfish, wahoo, mahi mahi, conch, snapper, jacks and many more of my favourites. I have never met something from the sea that I haven’t liked.
Looking towards the azure blue ocean, fishermen are setting sail on colourful boats or returning with large catches of fresh fish which ensure that there is plenty of fresh seafood from 10am to 10pm. I always get enough food to sit and enjoy a meal and bring extra bags for takeaways.
In addition to the food, I enjoy watching the joy on people’s faces, hearing the laughter of children as they jump off the wharf, listening to local performers and bands, as well as taking in a game of dominoes or crab racing.
There are many activities happening at Festival Del Mar so bring your swimsuit, grab a local drink or a cocktail, find a shaded area and relax. No need to plan any other activities during this weekend.
Welches (on the eastern side of the island before Island Harbour) is a quaint local village. This festival is held in an open field in the heart of Welches. On arrival, the first thing I do is purchase tickets which are needed to buy food and drinks. The second thing on my list is to find the tent where the johnny cakes and other local treats like conkie dumplings and sham are being sold.
While pre-cooked food is available at the festival, I go to this festival to purchase food made in the traditional way (without electricity), like johnny cakes baked in metal drums and corn soup cooked over fire and three rocks. Go early for breakfast (bush tea anyone?) and stay late for the traditional entertainment (hand-made instruments, songs, dances and games of old).
Welches Fest meets its goal of helping to keep local tradition and culture alive. If you want a taste of Anguilla of the past, then Welches Fest is a must do.
SOUTH VALLEY COMMUNITY STREET FESTIVAL
This is the only festival in Anguilla which is held on a residential street. Held on the first Saturday in August, this street festival is a welcome addition to the summer festivities. The narrow road running through this compact and close-knit community is blocked off for food vendors, artists and small entrepreneurs to set up their wares along the side of the road.
As you enter, you will see a big stage where live entertainment with local performers is ongoing throughout the afternoon. Per usual, I must purchase johnny cakes and some of the best ones are sold here at this festival. Look for an unpainted and unfinished building, venture inside and get some hot cakes with butter. They are so good.
Stroll along the street and try various foods. I usually get conch soup and local drinks in addition to any other treats and food which catch my eye and call to my tummy. Sample and purchase as much food as you can. It’s all delicious.