BAHAMAS. Unlike many festivals in the US, the Goombay Festival takes place over several weeks during the summer, though there are a finite number of chances to catch it (Thursdays in July) in the Bahamas. Here you’ll find an exhaustive supply of vendors serving both seafood and meat specialties as well as specialty cocktails and live Bahamian music. Here are the best tips to get the most out of the festival.
1. If you love cooking demos, get there at the start to see them
The official food of the Bahamas is Conch. These creatures live in the beautiful Conch shells, hence the name. During the festival, you’ll see these all over. At the start, they have a demonstration showing festival-goers how they get the conch out of the shell. If you are brave enough you can pull the Conch right out of the shell. The bravest eat the slimy part as soon as it comes out.
2. Vendors serve full meals – not a snack like at a US food festival
At most food festivals in the US, vendors serve small “tastes” so you can sample many different items. But at the Goombay Festival, vendors serve up full meal portions, so bring a group so you can try different things or just come hungry. Some of the highlights you’ll find are fried fish (get the Snapper) and cracked Lobster (deep-fried chunks of lobster).
There’s ribs and wings if you would like something meat-centric as well.
3. The Goombay Festival dinner and a show with a parade
Around 8 pm on every evening of the festival, a parade comes through. Think of it as a marching band with dancers. Festival attendees don’t need to stand on the sidelines if they don’t want to. In fact, they are invited to take part in the celebration and jump right in and start dancing. Here’ you’ll find both locals and visitors joining in on the fun.
4. Try a Gully Wash
If you arrive at the start of the festival, you’ll get there in time to see some of the demonstrations like cocktail making and the festival cocktail is the Gully Wash. A concoction of coconut water, coconut milk and gin, you may as well give it a try.
5. Save room for sweets
At the Goombay Festival, there is no shortage of sweets. In fact, sweets are something that Bahamians like to have with almost every meal. Though cakes and pies are there, get the potato bread. It is something unique to the Bahamas and (don’t worry) it is much more sweet than savory.
6. How to dress for the Goombay Festival
Like many outdoor festivals, the dress is casual. No need to get dressed up. Shorts and a t-shirt is fine and remember to wear comfortable shoes as you will be walking around quite a bit. Also, make sure to spray yourself with mosquito repellent or you will come away with lots of bites.
7. Bring Cash to the Goombay Festival
Though we may live in a cashless country, other countries still expect cash when you pay. That’s definitely the case at the Goombay Festival, so be sure to bring plenty of cash or you won’t be able to buy anything. And there are no credit cards machines on site.
One of the best ways to learn about the culture of the Bahamians is at this month-long celebration. Bahamians are friendly and welcoming to tourists, so don’t be shy to get out there and dance and enjoy yourself while at the Goombay Festival!