Calabar Carnival; How it is Celebrated Annually in Cross Rivers State

Calabar Carnival is unarguably the biggest street party in Nigeria. It plays host to visitors from all parts of the country and the world. Every year, the Cross River State Government organizes the Calabar Carnival to the admiration and cheers of millions of people. Ever since its inception in 2005, the Calabar Carnival has grown from just a state festival to a national brand.

Calabar Carnival; How it is Celebrated Annually in Cross Rivers State


History of the Calabar Carnival

The carnival was an idea thought of and developed by former Cross Rivers State Governor, Mr. Donald Duke.

Mr. Donald Duke’s vision was to see that Cross Rivers state becomes the a hub for tourism and hospitality in Africa.

It was eventually inaugurated in 2004 with pomp and pageantry.


Calabar Carnival Important Facts and Figures

  • It is an annual festival held in Calabar Cross Rivers State.
  • It is held between the 1st and 31st of December.
  • The regulatory body for the Calabar Carnival is the Cross River State Carnival Calabar Commission.
  • The festival is tagged the biggest street party in Africa.
  • It has featured international artistes like late Lucky Dube, Akon, Fat Joe, Young Jeezy, Nelly, Kirk Franklin.
  • In 2013, the festival musical concert was headlined for the first time by a local artiste.

See Also: Notable Dance Groups in Calabar and Surrounding Communities of Cross River state


Major Events held During The Carnival

The Calabar Carnival is always a beehive of activities; some of the major events slated for the carnival are;

  • Music performance
  • Cultural display
  • Fashion shows
  • Boat Regatta
  • Christmas shows
  • Boat villages
  • Carol Night


Tips to guide you during Calabar festival

In as much as the festival is a time to get loose, one should also take extra precaution as regards safety and obeying all rules intended for the festival. Some of these tips include;

  • Always keep your GSM handset in a safe place.
  • Wear shoes that are comfortable for you throughout the festival to reduce the stress of prolonged standing.
  • Visitors are advised to take a lot of water to avoid dehydration.
  • Visitors are advised to eat well before leaving home.
  • Always obey the rules and regulation of band leaders and section leaders.
  • Get a handkerchief or face towel.
  • Wear clothes that give you freedom.
  • Visitors are advised to use sunglasses

See Also: Top 10 Most Influential Personalities from Cross River State, Nigeria


Things to avoid during Calabar festival

  • No chanting of anti-government slogans.
  • Do not make trouble with anyone by using provocative statement.
  • Do not go against law enforcement agencies and traffic rules.
  • Do not carry dangerous objects like knife, guns etc.
  • Avoid taking alcohol and hard drugs during the festival.
  • Avoid littering the streets with nylons, wrappers and other used objects.
  • Do not create argument with band leaders and section leaders.
  • Indiscriminate urination should be avoided, always use the approved toilets.


Cultural Parade

This is one of the highlights of the competition. Usually cultural bands from different states of the country would go in a procession from streets to street to the admiration of all.

The cultural bands put on very colourful costumes which are made in the country. Visitors usually line up on the streets to watch this colourful display from the bands.

Watch the video below.

Economic Importance of the Festival to the State

There is no doubt that Calabar Carnival has created enormous wealth for the people of the state since its inception in 2004. Here are some of the contributions to the state.

Revenue Generation

The Cross River state government has been able to generate sufficient funds through various companies and organization that acts as brand to the festival. Some of its major sponsors are Dangote, First bank, Zenith bank, Ecobank etc

Job creation

Ever since its inception the festival has created direct and indirect jobs to thousands of people in the state.

Peace and well-being

The festival has helped to strengthen the bonds that exist among people of the state through shared activities.


How Calabar carnival is celebrated

The carnival begins from a 12 km walk starting from the UJ Esuene Stadium passing through Mary Slessor road to Ndidem Usang Iso and MCC Road before finally ending at the stadium.

The carnival band is made up of the Kings and Queen, the Children Band and the Adult and main band.

The band includes the:

  • Bayside Band
  • Master Blaster Band
  • Seagull
  • Passion 4 Band

See Also: How Sango Festival is Celebrated in Oyo Town, Oyo State Nigeria

The bands are open to all Nigerians and non-Nigerians. Each band develops its own concept for the procession. Unique costumes are developed and worn by participating bands. Members of the band engage in different display to the cheers of everyone.

The bands are judged by experts based on the following factors; float, bands on the move, costumes and make up, interpretation of theme and best reflection of the carnival spirit.

The winner is selected on how best she performs on these score points.


The Target Population

The carnival is usually attended by all age groups from young to old. Attendees could either be band members participating in the band or spectators enjoying the show.

The spectators are usually made up of three groups; the overnighters, residents and day trippers.

The overnighters are people who spend at least one night at the events, the day trippers are spectators who attended the events but did not stay overnight while the residents are spectators who came from their different homes to watch the carnival.

All these three groups are what make the Calabar Carnival such an interesting event to attend.

See Also: Argungu Fishing Festival in Kebbi State, Nigeria


International Participation

The Calabar Carnival is gradually growing to become a global festival attended by millions of people. In 2015 the festival played host to some of the biggest carnival brand in the world.

Vai Vai Samba, Brazil’s biggest carnival band was present. Also Spain’s carnival band, the Flamenco performed at the event. The Flamenco and the Vai Vai Samba are one of the most glamorous bands in the world. They parade a bevy of beautiful ladies clad in specially designed attires.

Italy will be represented by the Flag Twirlers while there will be lovely performance from the Circus Oasis of France.

Carnival Troupe of Belize another popular band in Europe will bring their distinction and flavor to the festival.

The republic of China also features in the spectacle with their acrobatic band.

See Also: Awon Mass Wedding Festival in Shao, Kwara State, Nigeria

From Africa there is the Urukerereza of Rwanda, who captivates the audience with their drums together with bands from Zimbabwe, Kenya and Ghana.

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