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Carnival and More Carnival

By Lisa Mullins Bishop, Caribbean Edge Staff Writer

Carnival is a special festival celebrated throughout the Caribbean before the beginning of Lent. But the island of St. Martin is the only one that celebrates Carnival twice a year - once before Lent on the French side of the island and again after Easter in a two-week festival on the Dutch side of the island. The festival is marked by street parades complete with a variety of floats, performing bands and musicians, exotic costumes, talented dancers, and much merriment. The French town of Marigot is known for its "Jump-ups" and parades. The air is filled with the sounds of Zouk, calypso, and reggae music as well-known French West Indian and international musicians display their talents. The festival on the French side of St. Martin ends when Ash Wednesday begins.

But then in April the island erupts in festivities once again when Dutch St. Maarten celebrates its 19-day-long Carnival. It begins with the opening of Carnival Village, an area that houses 100 or so booths selling all types of food from conch to johnnycakes to barbecued chicken. Carnival continues with numerous parades of floats, exotically costumed dancers, and bands. The largest of these is the Grand Carnival Parade. Other top Carnival attractions include the Caribbean Queen Pageant and the grand finale, a Jump Up led by King Momo, the straw figure who reigns over Carnival. The end of Carnival is marked by the burning of King Momo, who then, according to local legend, takes the village sins with him, leaving the island pure.

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