The annual BVI Emancipation Festival, a two week-long celebration of the country’s heritage, culture and freedom, came to an end this past week. Historically, the Emancipation Festival celebrates the 1834 proclamation that freed just under 6,000 slaves in the British Virgin Islands. To commemorate the proclamation that occurred on August 1st, many events and activities occur on Tortola.
Given that Tortola is the most populated of the four main BVI islands, it is the ideal host for the festival. Road Town, the capital, is the main location for many events and celebratory festivities, including parades, pageants and live music. Local Caribbean food is also featured at booths throughout the weeks.
Festival Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday are three days of public holidays. Though the events take place throughout the weeks up to the three holidays, these are great days for visiting, because locals are off work and able to partake in the festivities. There are also smaller festival events outside of Road Town at Carrot Bay and on East End, Tortola.
Festival Monday, the first of the three public holidays, includes the grande parade and J’ouvert or, “Rise and Tramp.” It is an early rising street parade with dancers, sound trucks, and bands who move throughout the island starting at 4am. Anyone is welcome to join in, dress up and march in the parade. The street party ends at a beach, with everyone jumping in and refreshing themselves in the sea to start the day. J’ouvert is a tradition associated with Carnival throughout many of the other Caribbean islands and the world. It is a celebration of Caribbean culture and freedom.
If you’re a guest interested in learning more about BVI heritage, this event is a glimpse into the history of the BVI. If visiting late in July or early August, it is possible to experience the event for yourself. Many of our employees find the time to head to Tortola, participate in the grand parade, eat delicious local food, learn about Caribbean history through celebration of the BVI Emancipation Festival. Come visit us and experience some of our incredible BVI culture for yourself!