The 5th annual Festival del Mar

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Contact: Othlyn Vanterpool
Chairman FDM Committee
Island Harbour Community
(t) 264-235-6014



The sleepy fishing village of Island Harbour comes alive on Easter weekend, April 7th and 8th, 2012, to the rhythms and flavours of the 5th annual Festival del Mar.

Located at the eastern tip of Anguilla’s undulating shoreline, the village’s rich history dates back to the early 1600’s when it is said a boat carrying a group of missionaries from Ireland was shipwrecked just off the northern coast.  The survivors found refuge on Anguilla, and called it Ireland Harbour.  Over the years the spelling was changed to Island Harbour, which we know it as today.   For centuries, the men of Island Harbour eked out a living from the rich waters of Anguilla which teemed with all varieties of fish, including the famous Anguillian spiny lobster, and its smaller, sweeter cousin, the crayfish.  It was from an industry of fishing, boatbuilding and lobster catching that they built their community economy – all whilst honing their boat-racing skills to near perfection.

Today, the Festival del Mar is conceptualized by community leaders as a means of paying tribute to their sea-faring heritage, offering locals and visitors alike the opportunity to savour the flavours of a variety of delicacies from the sea, whilst enjoying a plethora of activities that take place in, on or around the water.  Local string bands and steel pans add to the colorful, festive atmosphere as residents, young and old, compete in a series of events including crab-racing, model boat-racing, sun-fish racing and deep sea fishing.  Swimming races are also held, but the highlight, of course, is the island’s beloved national sport, Boatracing.

With over 20 food stalls lining the roadways and beachfront on Island Harbour, culinary delights abound, with only one stipulation: all menu items must come from the sea!  Lobster, crayfish, conch, whelks, snapper, shellfish and calamari are served up in a variety of ways, with favourite sides like dumplings, conkies, fried cakes and Johnny cakes to round off the finger-licking meal.

This year, to mark the momentous occasion of the fifth anniversary of the Festival, the organizers have chosen to highlight another key element of the community’s tradition – their affinity for country music!  Fueled by the rise of country music band The Artells in the early 1970’s, and recording artist, Evans Webster, the community has continued to express its love for this genre of music, holding its first Country Comes to the Caribbean Festival in Island Harbour at Scilly Cay, February 19 – 20 of 2005 featuring Billy Ray Cyrus among others.  The Island Harbour community has chosen to refocus attention on this music tradition through a special guest appearance by regional country singers Pat Ross and Ben Jax of St Kitts, who will be performing at the Festival site in Island Harbour with their seven piece band on Sunday April 8.

Festival del Mar is one of a series of local festivals endorsed by the Anguilla Tourist Board and the Department of Youth and Culture as a vehicle for celebrating Anguilla’s cultural heritage, whilst at the same time offering visitors an opportunity to experience the authenticity of the island’s local traditions.

For further information, or to learn more about Anguilla call the Anguilla Tourist Board at 1 877-4 ANGUILLA or visit