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36th St. Maarten Heineken Regatta - March 3 - 6, 2016

Source:  Dawn Langfield

I was delighted to accept the invitation to cover the music portion of St. Maarten Heineken Regatta with the motto, SERIOUS FUN! Having had a challenging year myself, the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta was the remedy I needed.  The island of St. Maarten, infused with the soft breezes of the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean, the excitement of those participating in one of the biggest regattas of the Caribbean plus the hot choices of live music entertainers that invade the beaches on the island is palatable.  

St. Maarten is an island full of natural beauty, cultural diversity and modern conveniences. The experience on this island of two cultures, French and Dutch, attracts people from all over the world because of it's multicultural charm and multilingual people, not to mention it's stunning beauty, art, restaurants with exotic offerings and tax-free, duty-free shopping!

If you're smart, you will put it at the top of your travel destination list to visit during the 2017 St. Maarten Heineken Regatta!

The big headliner this year was Grammy-nominated Akon, who is an internationally known as a singer, rapper, songwriter, businessman, record producer, actor and humanitarian.  In addition to his many talents, in February of 2014, Akon partnered up with several organizations in an effort to bring electricity to homes across Africa. The project called "Akon lighting Africa" aims to address Africa's energy crisis and work towards laying the groundwork for improvement. At the United Nations Sustainable Energy for All Forum on May 21, 2015, Akon announced the plans for a solar academy in Mali, which will add job training to his company's work of bringing solar power to rural communities around the continent. At the time of his UN address, there were already 14 countries where solar power had been put into use by "Akon Lighting Africa".


Akon in concert at the 2016 St. Maarten Heineken Regatta

Despite getting off to a little late start as the plane had to go through the de-icing process, I arrived safe and sound and was greeted by my good friends and hosts extraordinaire, Kenrick and Kareen.  As most people will tell you, it's always surreal to be in freezing weather one moment and 4.5 hours later, arrive in warm, sunny and breezy St. Maarten.


My accommodation this year was Horizon View Beach Hotel (owned and operated by Ramesh Sujanani) who generously comped my hotel stay.  Horizon View is centrally located downtown right on the boardwalk in Philipsburg, which is situated on the waters of Great Bay, akin to the Atlantic Ocean.


Horizon View Beach Hotel - St. Maarten 2016

Horizon View offers suites with a full kitchen, bedrooms and ocean view (below) at very affordable rates.  It is my 'go to' spot for accommodation on the beach and boardwalk in Philipsburg, where there are shops, restaurants and entertainment within steps from the entrance into Horizon View!  I usually get an island visitor perched in my room - this year, a Mourning Dove.

The Boardwalk - one of my daytime hang out spots - features stores, restaurants and hotels.  It transforms on regatta Friday into a long stretch of stages and is one of my favourite regatta parties.  The boardwalk is parallel to the Caribbean sea and serves as a breezy backdrop to the busy and festive night.  It is one night that practically the entire island of locals and visitors come out to enjoy all the Boardwalk has to offer.


The Boardwalk, Phillipsburg, St. Maarten

So, on Friday, March 4th, the stages are built all along the boardwalk with easy access to eateries, vendors and of course, great live music!  I even ran into good friends.


Heineken Regatta's Boardwalk Party 2016, Phillipsburg, St. Maarten

Among the many performers this year, this year's artists included Mighty Dow & his Ebony Steel Orchestra, Xplosion Band, Control Band and one of my favourite bands on the island, Church!  Many of the bands that performed are no strangers to the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, and the idea of turning the Boardwalk event into a place to showcase the island's talented bands was well received. The evening will certainly fill the warm air with sounds from all sorts of music genres from Calypso to Reggae, Zouk to Soca and Steel Pan to Pop, assuring that everyone will enjoy an amazing regatta experience.


Xplosion 2016


Church 2016

On, Saturday, March 5th, the line up offered a myriad of sounds from around the region. The night begins with Orange Grove with performers from The Netherlands and St. Maarten, followed by Honeypot from Aruba and Ziggi Recado (Netherlands and St. Eustatius). Then it's time for the crew from St. Thomas, for what will most certainly be an upbeat and fun performance by R. City


Orange Grove 2016


Heineken Girls, Friends Nasio, Clement and Clive ... and some Ziggi


Ziggi Recado 2016

Chart topping duo R. City (talented brothers, Theron and Timothy Thomas), performed during the weekend's musical events. This dynamic team is no stranger to the music scene, as songwriters they have had the opportunity to write lyrics for other performers such as Usher, Justin Bieber and most recently gave the world the multiplatinum, chart topping hit from Rihanna's "Pour It Up".

"The tag line in almost every one of our songs has been "Right About Now" as is also the case with the #1 Billboard single "Locked Away" featuring Adam Levine. We are pumped to perform in St. Maarten for the very first time and we look forward to providing the audience with a high energy show as was recently evident at our Madison Square Garden performance in New York for iHeart Radio's Jingle Balls event." stated R. City.


R. City 2016


Akon in concert at the 2016 St. Maarten Heineken Regatta

Every year I think it is my favourite trip to St. Maarten  - whether it was the spirit of the people, unbelievable weather, the swift boats in the regatta, the fun-filled parties, the incredible food or all the live music on the beaches around the island, but the magic of this island has definitely cast its spell on me.

Remember that the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta happens every year during the first week of March.  Book your calendars now!

Special thanks to Kenrick "Coco" "The Mayor" Housen and Kareen Yarde for their exceptional and generous hosting!  Love you guys and hope to see you soon!