Gros Islet: Inside the Saint Lucia Street Party That’s Been Going on For 50 Years

When the sun sets on St. Lucian Fridays, a village on the lush island’s northernmost tip becomes the hottest locale in the Caribbean.

A favorite vacay spot for celebs like Chloe Bailey and Kevin Hart, Saint Lucia is perhaps best known for her refreshing blue waters, luxe resorts, clear views of the night sky and ample opportunities for carefree relaxation.

But every Friday night (except Good Friday!) for the last 50 years, one party finds thousands of tourists and locals descending upon an otherwise quiet fishing village to eat, drink, and vibe the night away to the sounds of Soca, Reggae, Hip Hop, and International music from sundown until the wee hours.

Gros Islet: The Saint Lucia Street Party That’s Been Going For 50 Years

Originally a weekly “jump up” for the local community, the Gros Islet Street party has become an increasingly larger tourist draw over the last few decades as more hotels and resorts have set roots in the nearby Rodney Bay area. Now, visitors and natives from all over the island make it a point to journey to town to dance the night away.

I had the pleasure of attending the Gros Islet Street Party during my last jaunt to the island. When the event was suggested, I was expecting a few local vendors and stands with street food, tourists who stumbled off their all-inclusives for a casual night on the town traipsing up and down the streets, a few island-themed cocktails with some steelband accompaniment, and to head back at the resort by a decent hour.

I was in for quite a surprise.

I knew my calculations of the night were likely a bit off when I saw the sheer size of the sound system set up at the intersection at the town center a few blocks from the bar at which we began our evening. Just after sundown, the tunes began at a medium level and the crowds were just as I’d pictured; couples and families casually strolling the blocked-off streets with bags of freshly-purchased souvenirs and plates of Caribbean fare. But as the night edged on, droves of people poured in, locals and visitors alike. Honeymooners from California. Backpackers from London. Girls trip groups from nearby islands. US travel agents, getting a feel for what the island had to offer their clientele. Native St. Lucians sat at foldout table tops, enjoying chilled Pitons (the local beer of choice) and eager to grab a bite and show off their moves.

As the sound system grew louder with each passing half hour and the sounds moved between Caribbean classics to current international hits, the crowd swelled out of the rows of bars and restaurants. Groups mingled and danced, eventually spilling onto side streets. I found myself among that number, grabbing some jerk chicken from the Irie Grill and feeding the friendly street dogs while giving my feet a rest.

Gros Islet: The Saint Lucia Street Party That’s Been Going For 50 Years

The food offerings don’t stop at jerk and barbecue, however, as the area is known for its fresh-caught fish, lobster, and crab, each seasoned and grilled to perfection at several street stands.

Back in the thick of things on the main intersection, revelers danced against the speakers. Rum punch flowed from street vendors, smoke billowed in thick clouds, and strangers became temporary comrades as the DJ commanded the massive crowd into call and response. This isn’t a space to observe and play the wall; all are called to hit the pavement and let the music move them. Needless to say, wear a comfortable shoe and make sure your joints are warm because you will be putting your body to work to the beat of the massive sound system well past the hour that PM turns to AM.

Whether you’re on the island to take in the sounds of the St. Lucia Jazz Festival in May, hit di road during Carnival in July, or simply soak in its beauty on any other occasion, the Gros Islet street party is a can’t-miss activity.

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