If It’s Tuesday, It Must Be … Harmony Night!

By Kerry Biddle on 27th January, 2016

By Marianne Tefft

The ever popular parade down the boulevard in Grand Case

The tinsel and trimmings may be back in their boxes and the holiday fireworks a fading memory, but the festive spirit still parties to a Carnival beat in French St Martin. For the first three months of the New Year, the week’s biggest fête is Harmony Night in Grand Case.

Every Tuesday from 6:30 pm to 1 pm from January 12 2016 to the end of March, the two-kilometer-long main thoroughfare of Grand Case – which boasts a well-earned reputation as the gastronomic capital of the Caribbean – becomes a traffic-free pedestrian way and ‘action central’ for the open-air party known as Harmony Night.

For a good time under the stars, Grand Case Harmony Night attracts island residents and visitors alike with local music, art exhibitions, hand-made gifts and crafts, open-late shopping and alfresco beachside dining.

Harmony Night was launched more than ten years ago, when the Grand Case business association of artisans, restaurateurs, merchants and hoteliers – known by the French acronym ARCHA – got together to showcase their community with a welcome antidote to the island’s January blahs.

From the beginning, Harmony Night made a huge splash on the local entertainment scene, attracting up to 4,000 Tuesday-night strollers, diners, window-shoppers and sightseers to once-sleepy Grand Case, says Chantal Vernusse of St Martin-based Calypso Events.

“Harmony Night was a great success from the start, and that’s never stopped,” says Vernusse. “In Grand Case everyone from taxi drivers, parking attendants and security staff to restaurateurs and ‘lolo’ operators is busy on Harmony Night, and visitors always have a great time.”

Each week, she says, about 120 artists and exhibitors, with products ranging from beach-glass jewelry and fine watercolors, acrylics or oil paintings to hand-made cosmetics and specialty cakes, candies and Caribbean condiments and sauces, line the village’s main boulevard.

As the sun sets, families, couples, teens and tourists saunter along the lively thoroughfare. Soon, the evening service draws to a close at the Grand Case Catholic church, and locals congregate on airy verandahs to kibitz with friends and neighbors. Just down the street, pint-sized guests squeal with glee inside the blow-up Bouncy Castle. Visitors in the know quickly line up for hand-made coconut, papaya and mango ice cream and sweet crepes. To the delight of on-lookers, music-lovers break into impromptu dance steps as local bands pump out favorite merengue, bachata and kompa rhythms.

In addition to the Tuesday-night Craftworks Market, about 20 year-round boutiques and art galleries and 40 sea-view restaurants offer special Harmony Night menus, entertainment and promotions. Not to be missed are the weekly Brazilian dance shows and sizzling mini-Carnival parade, featuring soca dancers in feathers and spangles accompanied by a marching steel-pan orchestra. Plus, you never know when the crowds will part to reveal a fire-eater, portrait artist, stilt walker or curb-side magician.

Free parking near Grand Case Community Centre always fills up early; however, special free shuttles ferry visitors to and from cars parked at Grand Case Airport or along Airport Boulevard throughout the evening. Always on hand are ARCHA’s 14 security staff and a team of local French gendarmes to ensure that everyone can party in safety.

But on a Tuesday, even these hard-working professionals are smiling; after all, it’s Harmony Night.

Harmony Night – To stay in touch with the Harmony Night in Grand Case, ‘Like’ Mardi de Grand Case SXM on Facebook or contact Chantal Vernusse at Calypso Events, tel: 0 590 690 74 27 07, www.calypsoevent-sxm.com or the St. Martin Tourism Office. For exhibitors’ and performers’ information, contact Fabienne at Calypso Events, tel: 0 590 690 32 55 20 or 0 590 690 62 32 99.