September is Belize’s golden month. For three weeks—from September 1 all the way through September 21 (Independence Day)—the city hops on one long party train to celebrate the country’s freedom from Great Britain in 1981. Along the highways, you’ll spot massive billboards listing events in districts countrywide leading up to Independence Day. The streets, lights, and bridges in Belize City are decked in the national colors—red, blue, and white—and everyone is on a celebration high. It’s quite the time to visit Belize City, particularly if you’re a culture and history buff (not to mention the prices in low season are oh-so-right).
Belize’s Caribbean spirit is on full display during a Caribbean-flavored Carnival (mid-Sept.). You’ll see colorful floats, men and women in sexy, extravagant costumes, trucks and massive speakers blasting either punta or soca music as the crowd and revelers hop and dance all along Central American Boulevard. The parade often starts on the south side of town around 2pm; be sure to arrange a taxi ride to and from the event and arrive about an hour early if you want to save a spot. After Carnival, the celebrations continue at the BTL Memorial Park with an all-night outdoor concert, food and drink vendors, and plenty of seaside dancing.
Other Festivals and Events
St. George’s Caye Day (Sept. 10) commemorates the 1798 Battle of St. George’s, when British forces repelled a Spanish invasion of Belize. The day begins around 10am with a ceremony full of pomp and circumstance at Memorial Park on Marine Parade Boulevard, just a few steps from the Radisson, where you’ll glimpse the Prime Minister along with other important figures. A colorful citizens’ parade follows around noon, with plenty of music and dancing, from the park all the way to Albert Street.
Sir Barry’s Belikin Bash (Sept.) is held at Memorial Park with live performances from the country’s top artists. Launched in 2011, this free, two-day outdoor concert commemorates the life of Sir Barry Bowen, the popular Belizean business magnate who created Belize’s beer brewing empire and passed away tragically in 2010. There’s plenty of dancing, food tents, and beer keg contests from 9pm until the wee hours of the morning. This is where you’ll get acquainted with Belizean music and party spirit; watching the men and women competing in exaggerated “hip shaking” just to win free beer is highly entertaining.
Catch the Independence Day Parade (Sept. 21) celebrating Belize’s Independence from Great Britain. Similar to the St. George’s Caye Day, Belize City holds its own with uniform parades, marching bands, floats, and children and adults all wearing the bluered- white national colors and waving flags. The celebrations usually begin at Memorial Park around late morning, and continue on throughout the afternoon and evening. Check with your hotel or the local newspapers for accurate timing.
The Baron Bliss Day Parade and Annual Boat Regatta (Mar. 9) is a national holiday that both celebrates and commemorates the nation’s largest benefactor, Sir Baron Bliss. Festivities are centered around an annual boat regatta and are usually followed by parties. The events and times can vary; consult your host or local papers for details on location and times.
The National Arts Festival (usually in Feb.), organized by the National Institute of Culture and Heritage, was launched in 2012 to showcase local artistic talent in Belize—from painters to sculptors, tattoo artists, jewelers and more. Booths and displays are located downtown along Albert Street, and there is a parade and live music stages at Central Park. It’s one big celebration of creativity. Contact the Institute of Creative Arts at the Bliss Center for Performing Arts (Southern Foreshore, tel. 501/227-2110) for a schedule of events.
Excerpted from the Tenth Edition of Moon Belize.