Carnival, Tobago Style

Tobago's newest festival is a late-summer Carnival, complete with steelband and costumes. Dylan Kerrigan on the special flavour of Tobago Fest

  • Illustration by Jason Jarvis

Sometimes, I’ll be in my office, and suddenly memories of glitter, the tinkling of steelpans and the pounding of soca sound systems interrupt me. These thoughts are always distracting, especially the resulting foot-tapping and the seated waist-rotations. After years of these peculiar moments a friend diagnosed my ailment — “Carnival Withdrawal Syndrome”. (I know, I couldn’t find it in the medical dictionary either). After a discussion which revealed that my symptoms occur mostly in September, my buddy let me in on one of the Caribbean’s best kept secrets and a known cure for such afflictions — the Tobago Fest.

The Tobago Fest is Carnival, Tobago-style. It incorporates familiar Carnival traditions such as the Queen Show, Night Mas’ and a Parade of Bands, while at the same time stamping these traditions with an original Tobago flavour. The festival was conceptualised in 1996 as an event that could attract visitors during the low season in September and October. With the help of the National Carnival Bands Association (NCBA), Tobago Fest has today developed into a rich expression of Tobagonian creativity.

The festival organisers have taken full advantage of the Carnival expertise of their colleagues in Trinidad, learning everything from wire-bending and costume building to cross-island promotion and sponsorship, always ensuring, however, that events retain that unique Tobagonian character. The cost of participation in the festival is kept well within the reach of the general public. Admission to events is reasonably priced, and costumes usually start at around TT$150 (US$24).

Among Tobago Fest’s future objectives is a plan to take the Fest from village to village, teaching Carnival craft in the schools and communities, encouraging Tobagonians to create their own locally-themed bands. Moriah, for instance, has discussed a wedding theme, while the Buccoo villagers mention goat masks. Another proposal for the future is a Certificate of Mas’ Skills, to be awarded to students on completion of a mas’-making course.

As the Tobago Fest expands, it finds itself in good hands under the leadership of former Carnival bandleader Wilma Bedlow, head of the NCBA Tobago Region. Hailing originally from Tobago, Mrs Bedlow spent some years in Trinidad before returning to her native island, and she talks about the festival with the enthusiasm of a pioneer. “Funding is hard,” she says, “but if we can make mas’ part of our children’s culture, teach them the craft of Carnival, then this will become their thing, a truly Tobago thing.”



September 26-29

• Thursday 26 September – Queen Show and Calypso Competition

• Friday 27 September – Night Mas’

• Saturday 28 September – J’Ouvert, Parade of the Bands, “Ah We Jam” calypso showcase

• Sunday 29 September – Chill Out

All parades start at Radio Tambrin and wind their way through the streets of Scarborough, culminating on the Esplanade.

For information on participation and special hotel offers, contact the NCBA Tobago Region on (868) 660-7225

Dylan Kerrigan



Home away from home

Blue Waters Inn

Batteaux Bay, Speyside

(T) (868) 660-2583

(F) (868) 660-5195

“Friendly by nature”


Spence Investments Ltd.

Storebay Local Road,

Crown Point

(T) (868) 639-8082 or

(868) 639-7611

Holiday Resort

“Let us take care of your needs”


Villa Being

Secret mountain estate

Arnos Vale

(T) (868) 625-4443

(F) (868) 625-4420;

“An exceptional Caribbean villa experience”


Viola’s Place

Hampden, Lowlands

(near golf course & golf club)

(T) (868) 639-9441

“Affordable quality accommodation”



Baird’s Rentals Ltd.

Lower Sangster’s Hill Road,


(T) (868) 639-2528

(C) (868) 684-0979

“Looking forward to serving you”


Frankie’s Tours & Rentals

Easterfield Road, Mason Hall

(T) (868) 639-4527

(C) (868) 681-3717

Car Rental, Taxi service


Spence Investments Ltd.

Storebay Local Road,

Crown Point

(T) (868) 639-8082 or

(868) 639-7611

Car Rental

“Let us take care of your needs”


Going deep

Aquamarine Dive Ltd.

Blue Waters Inn, Speyside

PO Box 402, Scarborough

(T) (868) 660-5445/4341

(F) (868) 639-4419


Tobago Dive Masters

PO Box 351, Scarborough

(T) (868) 639-4697

(F) (868) 639-6948

“We’re bent on diving”


Manta Dive Center,

Viking Dive

Pigeon Point Road

(T) (868) 639-9209

(F) (868) 639-9969,

PADI Resort, Fishing Island Tours


For landlubbers

Frankie’s Tours & Rentals

Easterfield Road, Mason Hall

(T) (868) 639-4527

(C) (868) 681-3717

Land and sea trips


Sun Fun Tours Ltd.

PO Box 1083, Crown Point

Opposite Airport Terminal

(T) (868) 639-7461

(F) (868) 639-7564


Surfing & sudsing

The Clothes Wash Café

RBTT Compound, Crown Point

(T) (868) 639-0007

(F) (868) 639-7982

Internet Café, Coin Laundry & more


Hanging out

Pelican Reef Bar & Grill

Milford Road, Crown Point

(T) (868) 660-8000

(F) (868) 631-8080


Must check out

Things Natural

Corner Pigeon Point

& Milford Roads, Crown Point

(T) (868) 639-7197

Hand-crafted Creations

& Natural Body Products


Funding provided by the 11th EDF Regional Private Sector Development Programme Direct Support Grants Programme.
The views expressed on this website are those of the the authors and do not reflect those of the Direct Support Grants Programme.