Miami/Bahamas Goombay Festival

Miami/Bahamas Goombay Festival

Date Observed: First weekend in June
Location: Coconut Grove neighborhood,
Miami, Florida

The Miami/Bahamas Goombay Festival is an annual street festival held during the first weekend in June in the Coconut Grove neighborhood of Miami, Florida. This massive event celebrates the community's Caribbean-and particularly Bahamian - roots, and features the arts, music, and food.

Historical Background

Since at least the early 19th century, Bahamians have sailed to nearby south Florida, especially the Keys, for fishing and trading with the native Seminole Indians. During the latter part of the 19th century, Bahamian craftsmen came to the Coconut Grove area in large numbers. Many worked in construction, building the new city of Miami. One can still see many examples of their handiwork in resorts and homes, in the style of landscaping that remains popular, and in street names. According to the U.S. Census of 2000, the state of Florida leads the nation in resident Bahamians with a population nearing 20,000.

Creation of the Festival

In 1977 William R. Rolle and several other local citizens produced the first Miami/Bahamas Goombay Festival as a way of honoring the contributions of early Bahamian immigrants. The Goombay Festival is a vehicle for showcasing the contributions of Bahamians to the city of Miami. The name goombay is a Bantu word for a goatskin drum that is beaten with the hands; it also refers to music associated with the drum. Goombay has been celebrated by African slaves in the Caribbean for centuries (see also Goombay!).


The Miami/Bahamas Goombay Festival features the sounds of Bahamian and AfricanAmerican music - an annual favorite is the Royal Bahamas Police Band. Calypso, blues, reggae, and steel bands perform alongside rappers. There's also a Junkanoo band with festive, costumed dancers, accompanied by whistles, cow bells, and washboards.

Hundreds of vendors offer such goods as authentic Bahamian craftwork, tie-dye t-shirts, Bahamian food, and the most popular food fare of all, conch fritters. Estimated attendance is more than 300,000.

Conch Fritters

Conch fritters are a popular treat at the festival. Conch (pronounced "konk") is a seafood found inside a brightly colored spiral shell. The meat can be eaten raw or cooked, and a common cooked dish is conch fritters. There are numerous recipes for this traditional Bahamian food. Generally, they are made with ground conch (sometimes shrimp or crab meat is substituted, or even calamari) mixed with chopped celery, peppers, onion, and parsley; pressed garlic and various spices; eggs, oil, and pancake mix or flour. The mixture is formed into rounded, spoon-sized shapes and deep fried or sautéed. Usually, a dipping sauce is served with the fritters.

Contacts and Web Sites

African Heritage Cultural Arts Center 6161 N.W. 22nd Ave. Miami, FL 33142 305-638-6771

Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau 701 Bricknell Ave., Ste. 2700 Miami, FL 33131 800-933-8448 or 305-539-3000 P.O. Box 330052 Miami, FL 33133 800-891-7811; fax: 954-442-0427

Further Reading

Mohl, Raymond A. "Black Immigrants: Bahamians in Early Twentieth-Century Miami." Florida Historical Quarterly, January 1987.
African-American Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations, 1st ed. © Omnigraphics, Inc. 2007

Miami/Bahamas Goombay Festival

Early June
The Miami/Bahamas Goombay Festival is held over two days in early June each year in Coconut Grove, Fla. It was founded to commemorate the cultural and historical influence of South Florida's first black residents: the workers and craftsmen who arrived in Miami in the early 1800s to build the first hotel in Coconut Grove.
Launching in 1976, the free festival celebrates the music, art, culture, and heritage of the Bahamas and of multi-ethnic Miami with a parade, performances, ethnic food, and a variety of basketball and music activities. The event is named for the traditional music of the Bahamas, which blends African and colonial European influences. Goombay, which means "rhythm" in the Bantu language, is also the name for the goatskin drum that provides the beat for this type of Bahamian music. The festival, which was established as a non-profit organization by William R. Rolle and nine other activists, now draws about 300,000 participants to its colorful attractions.
Miami/Bahamas Goombay Festival in Coconut Grove, Inc.
P.O. Box 330052
Miami, FL 33133
800-891-7811; fax: 954-442-0427
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.
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