Turks and Caicos
The sea suffuses nearly every major annual event in the Turks & Caicos Islands, from regattas that range from playful to deadly serious, food festivals celebrating local seafood (especially native conch), and even a festival showcasing model boats carved by local residents that don't just sit on a shelf and look pretty -- they're built to go in the water and race, too.
Conch Festival, Providenciales
Turks and Caicos is home to the world's only commercial conch farm, and harvesting these beautiful and delicious mollusks has been a part of island culture for millennia. The annual Conch Festival held on Provo each December is part food festival, part talent show: restaurants vie for the honor of Best Conch Chowder, Best Conch Salad, and Best Speciality Conch Dish, while contestants show off their talents at conch blowing and conch cracking. The day-long event also includes food stands, junkanoo dancing and live music, and fireworks.
Carving model boats was a relatively overlooked folk art on the island of Middle Caicos until some residents got the idea of organizing a race to be held each year on Valentine's Day. Made from the wood of the indigenous gum-elimi tree, range in size from about 16-62 inches, with races held in three classes based on size. Races are held at Bambarra Beach, accompanied by a festival where local food and handicrafts are offered for sale.
Fool's Regatta, Providenciales
April Fools' Day was the perfect occasion to launch an anything-goes race between homemade rafts, and even though the race has since been held in the summer months (June, most recently), the goofy spirit of the event endures. In addition to the main event there are Hobie Cat races, competitions between local sloops, kids activities, and of course copious food and drink. Held at the Children's Park at the west end of Grace Bay Beach.
Annual Kite-Flying Competition, Providenciales
Kite-flying at Easter is a tradition in many Caribbean islands, and it's serious fun on Easter Monday in Provo, where kids (and kids at heart) compete in five categories for prizes and bragging rights. Similar events take place in Grand Turk, North Caicos, and Middle Caicos. Related activities range from the holiday-appropriate (an egg hunt) to the random (a tug-of-war contest).
Big South Regatta
The fishing capital of Turks & Caicos is also home to the annual Big South Regatta, a.k.a. the South Caicos Regatta -- the leading boat race of the year in a country that's mad about boating. Held in May, the regatta is a four-day party wrapped around sailing and speedboat races. Watch the races from land or sea, then kick back and enjoy the concerts, dancing, beauty pageant, and sometimes even donkey races that have been part of the fun since 1967.
This relative newcomer to the Turks & Caicos cultural scene features international and local chefs competing for honors and cooking for attendees in a celebration of Caribbean food and fine wine from around the world. Events include private dinners and a street-food festival. Sponsors include major luxury resorts like the Seven Stars, Gansevoort, Coyaba, and the Beach House.