Get ready to jump! May is carnival season in the Cayman Islands. There’s no better time to shimmy down the road in glitter and feathers, celebrating the carnival season with friends and family.
Whether you’re a visitor or a full time Cayman resident, jumping or spectating, we’ve put together this article to make sure you get the most out Cayman’s two eagerly anticipated carnival events - Cayman Carnival Batabano and CayMAS.
Both festivals are worth placing in your calendar as they each have their own unique take on the masquerade, music, and dancing that is traditional to carnivals in the Caribbean.
Batabano, Cayman’s national carnival
Runs from Thursday April 27 – Sunday May 11
In 1983 the first Cayman Carnival Batabano was established in the Cayman Islands by the Rotary Club of Grand Cayman. Ever since then it has been held in the first week of May.
The carnival is a salute to Cayman’s turtling heritage as batabano refers to the tracks left in the sand by sea turtles as they crawl onto the beach to nest. Batabano is now one of the biggest annual events in the Cayman Islands.
Festival goers can look forward to a range of popular long-standing events, including the J’Ouvert Parade, Le Masque Ball, and the Outta De Blue Fete to name just a few.
Of course, there is also the highly anticipated street parade, which sees West Bay Road closed to traffic from Public Beach all the way down to central George Town to make way for a flurry of extravagantly costumed masquerade bands, dancers, and music trucks.
For the past 17 years, Batabano has also hosted the Junior Batabano Street Parade & Family Fun Day, which typically sees more than 400 local students come together and enjoy the carnival spirit.
“This day is about the unity on the road,” Donna Myrie, chair and head of the Batabano organising committee. “It’s about everyone coming together in one joyous stream, all dancing to the same beat. It is about forgetting what bothers us and enjoying the euphoria of the carnival vibes.”
Batabano also includes a delicious food festival, which offers the ideal opportunity to sample some of Cayman’s local cuisine.
CayMAS, a new carnival offering
Runs from Thursday May 16 – 20
CayMAS launched in 2017 and brings a schedule of musical and street parade events to Cayman. It typically runs over the Discovery Day weekend at the end of May and gives carnival lovers a second opportunity to take to the streets and celebrate.
CayMAS includes a host of fun-filled events, including fetes, boat cruises, a soca and steel pan competition, and the eagerly anticipated street parade.
Bob Rees from AAMedia, the media marketing arm of CayMAS, says that this year’s event will be bigger and better than ever.
“We’ve got more activities the week of CayMAS, with the inclusion of Pan Explosion Competition Finals on Thursday May 16 on the waterfront in George Town in Kirk Freeports’ Fountain Square,” Bob says.
“We’ve also had and will continue to have peripheral CayMAS events with costume launches for seven bands.”
One of those bands is the eagerly anticipated Q Movement Band, which is being sponsored by Bounce magazine.
The band members outfits have been specifically made to showcase Bounce’s stunning brand colours, including pinks, purples, and greens. The colourful outfits also include a selection of tiaras, jewels, and feathers, ensuring the Q Movement Band will be one of the most eye-catching and colourful bands of CayMAS.
“I've participated in Batabano and CayMAS a handful of times and each time gets better,” Quinn McCrimmon, owner and founder of fitness studio Quinntessential Movement and the founder of the Q Movement Band says.
“It's a fun experience getting ready with hair and makeup, then feathers and jewels. Who doesn't want to dress up like a peacock and dance down the middle of the road? The energy and vibes you get with the music playing and everyone around you having a great time is such a cool feeling.”
She adds: “Our Q Movement Band is unique in that we transform our truck into a performance platform. We bring out our aerial equipment to display what our studio offers and the choreographed dances we perform on the road keeps the audience entertained. Last year we had such great feedback that people loved our dances, so we are bringing out more this year for everyone to enjoy.”
Here’s a closer look Batabano and CayMAS in 2019:
Highlighted events & dates:
J’Ouvert Road Parade 2019: Saturday, April 27, 2019
Le Masque Dinner Show: Thursday, May 2, 2019, Pedro St. James
Outta D Blue Friday Night Fete: Friday May 3, 2019, Grand Harbour Drive, George Town
Batabano Adult Parade & Food Festival: on Saturday, May 4, 2019 the Batabano adult parade departs at 1 p.m. from Public Beach on Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman, heading towards George Town harbour.
Batabano Boating Sunday: Sunday May 5, 2019
Junior Parade: Sunday May 11, 2019
Special promotions & details:
Mapy, the Violin Queen, will perform at this year’s Le Masque dinner show for Batabano. Her music effortlessly mixes soca, hip-hop and afrobeat sounds together into something uniquely beautiful.
Iwer George and Marzille are performing Friday May 3 for Batabano 2019. During the “Outta D Blue” Friday Night Fete, they will perform live on Harbour Drive, Grand Cayman.
CayMAS and Batabano are more than just parades. They are both several days’ worth of events, fetes, and concerts.
Highlighted events & dates:
Carnival events: Thursday May 16 – 20, 2019
Fetes: Friday May 17, 2019
Hookie Day Fete
Pan Explosion & Crowning Champion
Soca Monarch Finals by FLOW
AI Rentals FLAUNT! Fete
Fetes: Saturday May 18, 2019
Chicken Run Fete
Silverside Kick Start Fete
Swanky’s AfterMAS Beach Fete
CayMAS Adult Parade: Saturday 18 May, 2019, departing 1 p.m. from the harbour in George Town.
ICONZ Boat & Renegade Mas/Scorch Cruises, & Midnight Fete: Sunday 19 May, 2019
Swanky Breakfast Fete & Last Lap at Cayman Cabana: Monday 20 May, 2019
Special promotions & details:
CayMAS typically coincides with Discovery Day, another local holiday in the Cayman Islands.
The largest band in CayMAS is Swanky.
CayMAS is a whole week of events.
Will you be taking part in Batabano or CayMAS in 2019?