Party-Seekers Celebrate in St. Maarten

Creativity counts at upcoming annual Carnival

By: Kara Cutruzzula

Every year in April, St. Maarten combines music, dancing in the streets, fun and pageantry for the island’s Carnival festival. The hottest events on the island’s calendar include Jump-Up Parades, calypso competitions, beauty pageants and the annual Jouvert celebration.

St. Maarten’s two-week Carnival encompasses the island’s unique cultural traditions and allows visitors and residents alike to parade alongside costumed revelers. The celebration begins on April 17 with thousands in the streets for the Carnival Village Jump-Up and the opening of the Carnival Village gates, signifying the start of the party.

Events continue with the annual Children’s Parade, slated to take place on April 20. This special costumed procession showcases the children of St. Maarten and represents the Carnival preserving the island’s culture and tradition by passing from one generation to the next.

On April 26, residents and visitors celebrate the Jouvert, which comes from the French saying “jour ouvert” or morning open. In St. Maarten the Jouvert is centered on the Great Salt Pond, and is the largest of the street parties. Here, by the shores of this unique St. Maarten landmark, revelers celebrate throughout the night wearing personal costumes and creative dress.

On April 29, the Grand Carnival Parade showcases the creativity of costume design and dance from local and international participants. Carnival's Grand Parade’s uniqueness stems from its celebration of the traditions of many countries and cultures around the world. Spectacular floats with performers showcase lavish and varied costumes. Numerous troupes line the streets, each with up to 300 members dancing in creative carnival costumes, while local musical artists perform soca and calypso music.

The Closing Jump Up or Last Lap marks the official closing of the Carnival. This is the last chance for all spectators to show off their costumes as they dance their way to the Carnival Village. Musicians also compete for the prize of Carnival Band of the Year.