The Calabar Festival is indisputably the biggest and longest multi-dimensional, multi-faceted tourism leisure and entertainment programme in West Africa. Thirty-two days of exciting events, colourful activities and unprecedented yearly participation by close to a million people from all over the world. A festive season that started at the turn of the Millennium has grown in popularity, scope and participation year in, year out.
Today, it is arguably Nigeria’s strongest tourism brand. The Cross River State Government has employed this Festival/Carnival over the past years to drive its tourism efforts and provide exposure for its vast tourism sites and infrastructures such as the Obudu Ranch Resort, the Tinapa Business Resort, Marina Resort, etc.
The Festival starts with the Tree-Lighting ceremony on the 30th November at the Millennium Park, Calabar and culminates in the Thanksgiving Ceremony on 1st January of the succeeding year. In between, there are musical concerts which have featured renowned national and international artistes like Lucky Dube, Joe, Alpha Blondy, Hugh Masekela, Oliver Mtukudzi, Akon, Kirk Franklin, Donnie McClurkin, Chevelle Franklyn, Fat Joe, NeYo, Asa, D’banj etc have all at one time or another graced the Festival with their rhythms and lyrics.
There are also awareness campaigns and seminars on contemporary issues of global concerns, children’s Christmas Camp, theatre performances, vocational training for youths, fashion and food fairs, a weekend at the Obudu Mountain Resort to celebrate Africa, and so many other side attractions. Of course there is a two-day Carnival Calabar to spice up the season.
Carnival Calabar is a unique display of African heritage showcased through music, dance, drama and visual creativity which is reflected in the design of floats, costumes and make-up. Despite the fun and relaxed atmosphere around the carnival, a great degree of thought, creativity and discipline goes into the interpretation of the carnival theme under a strict adjudication process. The result is pure magic – an outpouring of colour, sound and spectacle, unmatched by anything else on the continent.
Carnival Calabar takes place on the 26th and 27th December each year, and is the highlight of the 32-day Calabar Festival which runs from 30th November to 1st January. The carnival is the largest cultural festival in Africa with 50,000 costumed revellers, 2 million spectators and an audience of over 50 million television viewers on NTA Network, NTA International, AIT, CRBC and Continental TV (Africa Magic, Channel 0 and MTV Base)
Carnival Calabar features 5 major competing bands and many non-competing bands. The major bands are comprised of approximately 10,000 revellers each, including up to five kings and queens wearing large scale costumes that interpret the annual theme and set the tone for the other outfits.
Sections of these costumed revellers create a riot of colour and sparkle, accompanied by live music, Djs, well-decorated floats and steel bands. The carnival parade terminates at the Uj Esuene Stadium which is the final adjudication and end point of the competition for ‘Band of the Year’ in various categories. This competition attracts an additional 15,000 seated spectators and 10,000 others in and around the stadium, as well as 50 million TV viewers.
Check out CometoNigeria Magazine, 3rd Edition for more information and images
Event Management Department and Carnival Commission
Government House, Cross River State, Calabar
Telephone: +234 – 703-751-3963