The Barbados International Hockey Festival, which we all know and love as the ‘Banks Festival’, is the premier Hockey Festival event in the western hemisphere.
When most people think of Hockey and Barbados, they think of the Hockey Festival! And what a marvelous thought it is! The Barbados International Hockey Festival, which we all know and love as the ‘Banks Festival’, is the premier Hockey Festival event in the western hemisphere, perhaps maybe the world, and certainly the most anticipated Hockey Festival event on the regional Hockey calendar. In 2023 however, the Festival briefly shared the spotlight in Barbados, as the country hosted the 2023 Junior Pan American Championships, Men & Women, from April 10 to 18, 2023. 
For the first time in 20 years Barbados played host to the best Under-21 men’s and women’s teams from across the Pan American region, competing for a spot in the 2023 FIH Junior World Cups. The tournaments saw men’s and women’s teams from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, U.S.A., Guyana, Uruguay, and of course Barbados in fantastic Hockey action at a transformed Wildey Hockey Centre in Barbados. 
It was certainly a spectacle, as Argentina emerged victorious in the men’s competition and the U.S.A. emerged as winners in the women’s competition. The tournament attracted over 1,500 spectators from around the region, who enjoyed all that Barbados had to offer. Additionally, the tournament was professionally produced and broadcast live to audiences around the world. I hope you had an opportunity to catch a game or two of these historic and memorable tournaments. If you didn’t, you may still be able to catch a match online. 
The 2023 Junior Pan Am tournaments definitely acted as a springboard for the 38th Annual Barbados International Hockey Festival, which took place from August 20 to 26, 2023. This year the Festival was even bigger and better than last year, as we had to utilize a second artificial playing field at the Usain Bolt Sports Complex to accommodate the teams and the competitions. The 38th edition welcomed twenty-nine teams competing across the customary four divisions – men’s, women’s, mixed, and masters (over 35) – including teams from Guyana, and the U.S.A., along with players from the U.K. and Trinidad & Tobago. We had a truly international event. 
Our visiting teams definitely brought the energy, as from the Opening Mixer (social event) on the Sunday night at Halo Lounge in St. Lawrence Gap, it was vibes, vibes, and more vibes. This year the Festival included more teams, more venues, more partners and sponsors, but the same Hockey vibes you know and love. Hockey action got underway on Monday with the start of the pool matches. After a keen day of competition, teams enjoyed a Games Night at the Wildey Hockey Centre. The dominoes competition was the feature game, with players from different teams vying for the top honor of Festival domino champion – a taste of true Barbadiana. Tuesday brought more sun, and more Hockey, ending with the team-hosted event, “Fish Fry with the Y”, as the YMCA Hockey Team hosted a traditional Bajan Fish Fry for the teams. The Fish Fry set the stage for the Festival Karaoke on Wednesday, which was held at the Wildey Hockey Centre after the last day of pool matches. After the Hockey Bingo, the Festival Karaoke was a whole movie, as players turned into stage artists and rocked the crowd. Players are still talking about that one. 
On the Thursday we reintroduced the Festival Beach Day, and this year teams assembled at Rascals Beach Bar, Restaurant and Waterpark for a full day of sand, sea, bright blue skies, golden sunshine, and cooling island breeze. Teams had the full run of the Rascals waterpark and had a Festival of a time. There’s no Hockey on the Beach Day, only some Beach Volleyball. After sunset, DJs rocked the teams at the Rascals bar until they said when. We wrapped up the week with the semi-finals and finals on the Friday and Saturday respectively, where the teams enjoyed the Festival Party on Friday night at Hi-Gate Bar and the Festival Party Cruise on Saturday night aboard the MV DreamChaser. The island’s best DJs entertained at these events, alongside Bajan performers and other local acts. 
This year was the first time in the 38-year history of the Festival that no local (Bajan) teams made it to the men’s final. In fact, it was the first year that a men’s team from Guyana, the Georgetown Cricket Club (GCC), took home gold in the men’s category, so a hearty congratulations to them! In other categories, N.Y. Islanders (USA) won the women’s category by besting Big Apple H.C. (USA), U.W.I. Blackbirds (B’dos) won the masters category over All Stars (B’dos), and Sentry Insurance Brokers Rockets (B’dos) returned to win the mixed category over Everest Hikers (Guyana). The Hockey was excellent with exciting finals all around! Congratulations to all champion teams and players! 
The 2024 / 39th Barbados International Hockey Festival will be held from August 18 to 24, 2024, so you can plan to join us from now! We are planning an even bigger and better Festival, with fresh social events and even better Hockey action, as we’ve had inquiries from teams from the U.K., Germany, and the Netherlands! If you’ve never heard of the Festival, it’s about the comraderie, and the friendships that are fostered among the players and people you meet from all over the world Hockey tribe - and there’s nothing else like it! Our Festival is unique in that way, and when coupled with the Bajan sun, sea, and sand - it’s an experience like no other. If you can’t make it in August, that’s fine. Hockey is a year-round sport in Barbados and we always welcome visiting teams, players, and officials at any time. 
Come and be a part of #TheFestival, the ultimate Hockey experience here in paradise. 
See you soon.