Among the many festivals the Bahamas call home throughout the year, Goombay Summer Festival is a lively party filled with locals and tourists alike enjoying music and food along the salty ocean breezes off gorgeous Arawak Cay in Nassau.
The Goombay festival was named after the large goat-skinned drum that booms loudly throughout many Bahamian dances, and is the heartbeat of the famous Junkanoo festival. First launched in 1974, Goombay Summer Festival showcases Bahamian culture with a plethora of local bands, Goombay dancers, fire dancers, and hordes of locals dancing and singing along with the music.
This festival is geared toward making sure both locals and tourists alike have a great time. Bahamian officials feel that it’s really important that everyone can experience Bahamian fun and culture at the same time.
While it is a great big party, it’s also very much a family affair. For every rum-drinking party-goer I saw, there were just as many kids. Early on, they were dancing fools – later, passed out in grandma’s arms.
Vendors have food and drink stalls where you can try many of the well-known local dishes, such as fresh Conch salad, Conch fritters, fried whole fish, and grilled lobster. As you might be able to tell already, Conch (pronounced ‘konk’, don’t make the rookie mistake I did by calling it ‘konch’!) is king in the Bahamas, and the locals enjoy making it ceviche style in their fresh conch salad, diced finely with onion, hot pepper, and tomato. The skill and speed at which I saw people chopping and dicing the conch made my head spin – Top Chef has nothing on these knife skills!
There are also plenty of local artisans selling their jewelry, bags, and art. I thought I was immune to the cheesy-straw-beach-purse purchase, but I have a 21 month old daughter, so she’s going to lose her damn mind over this super cute handmade Little Mermaid purse! They even personalized it by embroidering her name while I waited. Could it get any cuter?
Food competitions are also fun and entertaining to watch, and I enjoyed witnessing a 12 year old girl kick ass at the watermelon eating competition. She embarrassed 5 huge men, all at least double her weight. You show ‘em, girl.
While the place was totally packed with locals, I still saw plenty of tourists – even a few I recognized from breakfast at my hotel. I found them on the beach at our hotel the next day and couldn’t resist sitting down with them to find out how they heard about Goombay – and why they wanted to go. They said they saw a few billboards on the way from the airport and asked their taxi driver about it, and he seemed enthusiastic, so why not check it out? “We’re so happy we did, it was such a lively event and I always like going places where there are a lot of locals. Makes me feel like I know where to find a real, authentic good time.” says Kris Gulden from Virginia. Frankly Kris, I couldn’t have said it better myself.