Though the historic and scenic capital of Basseterre certainly deserves to be the most-visited community in St. Kitts, there are several towns across the island that offer unique tourism opportunities. One such destination is the peaceful town of Cayon, a coastal village resting in a verdant seaside valley just a few miles from Basseterre. Though the scenery and friendly spirit of Cayon can be appreciated throughout the year, the town is an especially exciting destination during the annual late spring celebration known as the Green Valley Festival. Despite being little-known outside of St. Kitts, the Green Valley Festival is actually the island’s second-largest event behind the immensely popular national Carnival celebration. Those visiting Cayon can also explore Spooner’s Ginnery, one of the most interesting historic industrial sites in the Caribbean.
Though the town of Cayon receives far fewer visitors than the capital city of Basseterre, this austere community is said to be one of the friendliest in St. Kitts. Much of the town’s welcoming nature seems to stem from the locals’ spirituality – the small community is home to nine distinct churches – and simple, relaxing way of life. Cayon is also home to some of the St. Kitts’ most unique scenery, as the town rests in a mountain valley near the Caribbean shoreline that is surrounded by verdant pastures and sugar cane fields.
While the scenery of Cayon is certainly a worthwhile attraction, the town has far more to offer during the month of May. Each year since 1997, the Green Valley Festival has helped St. Kitts welcome the summer season with live music, unique Caribbean cuisine and other special events. Since its inception, the Green Valley Festival has represented a true community effort, as citizens of Cayon organize and operate the event with the assistance of a select group of local sponsors. Having expanded each year, the Green Valley Festival now features a expansive lineup of local and regional musicians – performing everything from reggae, calypso and other Caribbean genres to soul, gospel and rock – numerous food vendors offering island-inspired cuisine and artists selling their hand-crafted creations. Much of the action at the Green Valley Festival revolves around centrally located Maynard’s Park, site of the primary music and event stage.
One of the most popular events at the Green Valley Festival is the elegant and uniquely Caribbean Queen Pageant. Each year, several local women don their most ornate, island-inspired dresses and compete on stage for a chance to represent the close-knit community and a seat of honor in the festival’s closing parade. During the parade, the Green Valley Festival Queen rides amongst local marching bands, dance troupes and other costumed performers that demonstrate some of the region’s lesser-known art forms. As the closing parade traverses nearly all of Cayon, excellent vantage points can be found on several of the town’s narrow streets.
One of St. Kitts’ most interesting colonial sites rests along the northeastern shore, just a few miles from Cayon. Spooner’s Ginnery – also known as Spooner’s Estate – is home to the last remaining cotton ginnery on St. Kitts, one of the most significant relics from the island’s transition from colonial rule to a modern economy. From the mid-18th century until the turn of the 20th century, Spooner’s Estate served as one of the island’s most productive sugar mills. After the property changed hands, the new owners converted the steam-powered sugar mill to a mechanical gin and began growing cotton in the rolling fields. Spooner’s Ginnery remained in operation until the 1970s when the local government purchased the property and began treating the site as an unofficial historic destination. Today, visitors to Spooner’s Ginnery can explore ruins that span three centuries of St. Kitts’ unique industrial and cultural history. The site of the ginnery also offers excellent views of one of the most peaceful, rural landscapes on the island.
When visiting St. Kitts, tourists that want to experience the quiet charm of local life are encouraged to visit the town of Cayon. Though the month of May stands as the most exciting time to visit this area, tourists visiting any time of the year can still revel in Cayon’s scenic seaside location and friendly atmosphere.
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