The Goombay Festival in Coconut Grove, Florida
Coconut Grove is one of Miami’s most unique districts, beginning as an independent city called “Cocoanut Grove,” and being subsequently swallowed up by Miami in a bloodless annexation. Bahamian culture plays a large role in the identity of the community, thanks to a substantial settling of Bahamians back in the 1880s. It is now known as “Miami’s Food-court” for reasons that are obvious to even the densest individual. Countless restaurants and open-air cafes dominate the landscape, making Coconut Grove a perfect place to have a night out. One of my favorites is Tuscany, but there are plenty of other fantastic places as well. There are numerous shopping opportunities here (as with almost all of Miami), and since the demarcation for the southern border of Coconut Grove is Biscayne Bay, there are numerous boating and sailing opportunities. All in all, there is enough to keep you busy in Coconut Grove for quite a long time. And I haven’t even gotten to the festivals.
In addition to being a gastronomic and consumer powerhouse, The Grove (as it is sometimes called) is also known for its varied and fantastic festivals and gatherings. Its world renowned art festival and famous King Mango Strut (a hilarious, tongue-in-cheek takeoff of the Orange Bowl parade) are favorites to many. My personal choice for festivals, however, is the Goombay Festival. For a few days in June, the Goombay Festival transforms mild-mannered Coconut Grove into celebration of Bahamian culture in the form of a Caribbean carnival. Junkanoo groups (Junkanoo is the traditional Bahamian street parade, usually featuring large groups wearing brightly colored clothes and yes, tons of cowbell) abound, and it can be difficult to tell if you are in Miami or Nassau. Between the junkanoo groups dancing and carousing, the rake-and-scrape music coming from dozens of different sources, the sizzling Caribbean food, the vendors trying to hawk their wares, and the spectators caught up in the spectacle, the excitement is always palpable, and there is always more conch salad than you can eat.
Next June, do yourself a favor and make your way down (or up, as your geographical location might dictate) and partake of the Goombay Festival in Coconut Grove. Depending on how much fun you are planning on having (and how much you feel like dealing with parking in the middle of a street festival), you might consider chartering some transportation, like a cab or (better yet) a limousine from Millenium Limo. Being able to relax and not worry about transportation always helps you have the best possible time. Bring your washboard and your cowbell.