Tortola’s biggest party of the year commemorates the end of slavery on August 1, 1833. The August Festival actually starts in late July with the opening of the Festival Village and lasts through the first week of August. There is entertainment nightly in the village, where you can sample authentic local food like goat water (goat soup), stewed conch, roti, and pâtés (fried meat-stuffed bread). Entertainers from all over the Caribbean perform, including some well-known reggae and soca artists. A favorite night is the calypso competition, when local singers perform calypsos touching on island politics, culture, and current events.
The centerpiece of the August Festival is the parade, held the first Monday of August. Beginning around noon (never mind any schedule that says it will start any sooner), colorful troops, dancers, and floats parade down Waterfront Drive to the Festival Village. If you plan to attend, it is wise to bring chairs and scope out a shady spot early.
Other popular festival events are the horse races, the Miss BVI pageant, water sports events, food fair, and Carrot Bay Fiesta, a mini-festival that takes place on the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday after the festival parade.
The BVI Tourist Board (284/494-3134, www.bvitourism.com) posts up-to-date information about the festival schedule on its website.
Highland Spring HIHO
Some of the world’s best windsurfers descend on the BVI every July for the Highland Spring HIHO (www.go-hiho.com), a weeklong windsurfing race that takes competitors throughout the British Virgin Islands. The name HIHO derives from the windsurfing lingo that says: hook in and hang on. During the annual event, windsurfers skit across the waters, followed by a fleet of sailboats. Wherever the HIHO leads, there’s a party to be found.
© Susanna Henighan Potter from Moon Virgin Islands, 4th edition