Trinidad and Tobago Get Festive

These sister islands love a good party

By: Janeen Christoff

Sister islands Trinidad and Tobago resemble the relationship of most siblings. They are similar on the surface but at the heart of each island there is striking individuality.
Trinidad is large and metropolitan with a reputation for lively festivals and an exciting choice of activities. The island can be bustling as it is in the capital, Port of Spain, filled with museums, art galleries and restaurants, or can be quiet and sedate, as along the sandy North Coast.
Tobago is the more serene of the two islands. Once known as the “jewel of the Caribbean.” Tobago keeps a low profile shrouded in one of the oldest protected rainforests in the Western Hemisphere. The quiet island is postcard-perfect and unspoiled.
One thing you will notice about any Trinidad or Tobago itinerary is the opportunity to participate in numerous cultural activities and festivals taking place throughout the year. The diverse culture of the islands lends to a wide variety of celebrations.

Rapsofest is a celebration of Trinidad and Tobago’s oral tradition. Rapso, meaning “the power of the word in the rhythm of the word,” is a unique style of street poetry developed in the 1970s and the inspiration behind the festival. The first Rapsofest was in 1991 and was a conscious effort by the community to popularize Rapso. Now, the festival spans two months, April and May with a series of workshops and sessions organized with the help of the National Library system in order to immerse participants in the art of Rapso. Sessions culminate with a series of performances. The big climax is Rapso Night where artists from all over the Caribbean come to perform.

Angostura Tobago Sail Week
Although relatively demure in nature, Tobago plays host to one of the liveliest sailing regattas in the world.
Known as “the friendliest regatta in the Caribbean,” The Angostura Tobago Sail Week May 8-13, strikes the perfect balance between fabulous sailing in the Caribbean and great fun, including non-stop parties, live music, games and valuable prizes.
Sailors, both novice and professional come from all over the world for a chance to race off the shores of Tobago. The Comfort Cruising Class is designed for the not-so-serious participants and owning your own boat is not a requirement.
A myriad of extra-curricular activities are planned by the Trinidad and Tobago Sailing Association for participants and on-lookers alike. The traditional “Lay Day” includes a “cook-up,” volleyball, tug-o-war and a hula hoop competition.

Tobago Heritage Festival
In late July, islanders celebrate the Tobago Heritage Festival, a celebration of Tobago’s dance, storytelling, music and food. The festival is a major event on the national calendar and was first celebrated in 1987. Throughout its history, Tobago has been in the hands of several different European occupiers largely reliant on the labor of African slaves. The festival celebrates the island’s diverse African and European heritage with a rebirth and revival of dance, song, music and cuisine.
Tobago’s many quaint communities play host to the festival’s events, allowing visitors to explore the island as they move from village to village and lending a measure of authenticity to the productions. Every day local villages put on performances which feature 18th-century European formal dances, an Ole Time Tobago Wedding accompanied by the music of the fiddle and tamb’rin and a ritual of inducting the younger generations into the community ways through storytelling, folk tales, superstition and morality plays.
The Tobago Heritage Festival is becoming the main event on Trinidad and Tobago’s busy festival calendar.
With the islands’ diverse and vibrant culture, it seems there is a festival for everyone.