Carnival stands out as one of the major festivals in St. Lucia. A highly traditional event, Carnival festivities usually includes competitions and performances by masquerade (Mas) bands, calypso and soca singers, steel bands, and beauty contestants.
The highlight of the celebration takes place, usually during the second week in July beginning on the weekend and ending on Tuesday (Monday and Tuesday are public holidays). Following the launching of Carnival in June, Mas Camps are formed and members begin to designed and built their costumes. Pan-yards are usually full of practising steel-band performers and, calypso tents throughout the island compete through a series of performances by local calypso and soca artists. During the height of the Carnival fever, competitions for beauty queens, soca and calypso monarch gets under way and Mas bands compete for king and queen of the bands, and the band of the year title.
If you are planning to visit St. Lucia for Carnival, be there one week before or at least by Friday before the Monday and Tuesday parades (see calendar of events). From Saturday evening to Tuesday night the city of Castries transforms into a large street party scene. Saturday night is usually the finals of the Calypso Monarch competition. This event is followed by the King and Queen of the Mas bands competition and, the OECS (Organization of the Eastern Caribbean States) Soca Monarch competition on Sunday. Right after the competitions (Monday morning), everyone heads off to the streets of Castries for the ultimate street party and Jour Ouvert (predawn jump up which starts at 4:00 am).
The Jour Ouvert street jump up is a wild affair involving loud pulsating soca and calypso music and dancing in the streets of Castries. Revellers are free to wear whatever they wish, and are usually judged for the best, weirdest outfit (referred to as Ole Mas). During that same afternoon (Monday), Mas bands head through the streets of Castries to be judged at the Mindoo Philip Park. On Tuesday, all Mas bands parade through the streets for judging which, ends in numerous ‘Last Lap’ circuits round the city; a massive “conga line”.
Contact your host to purchase costumes for carnival and jour ouvert and also tickets for the different shows.