Honoring the past. Celebrating the future.
That’s what happens each year at the Guinea Jubilee, an annual event known far and wide not just for the fun times and fresh seafood, but also because of its tradition to celebrate the rich heritage of the watermen culture in the Guinea community in the most southern, waterfront region of Gloucester on the Middle Peninsula of Virginia.
Founded in 1979 as a celebration that makes all things Guinea in rural coastal Virginia unique, the Guinea Jubilee is an annual two-day packed celebration full of events, activities, vendors, parades, music, and, of course, local seafood.
But what makes Guinea so special to this rural coastal community and worth celebrating?
Quite a bit, actually.
And it started a long, long time ago.
According to “A Guinea State of Mind,” a feature story in The House and Home Magazine in 2018, “ask any number of Guineamen about the origins of the community and its name, and you’ll get any number of answers. Their history was never written down and very early graves (prior to the nineteenth century) were unmarked. The most commonly told story was that during the Revolutionary War, Hessian mercenaries fighting for the British were housed in the area and paid in British guineas. They settled in the area, either deserting or after the war, paying for goods with British guineas. There are also tales of sailors who were shipwrecked after a voyage from Guinea in West Africa, and land being rented to farmers at the rate of one guinea per year.”
For generations, the settlers in the Guinea area harvested and fed their families from the water.
“Their days have always been long, starting at sunrise, a line of boats heading out, sometimes traveling miles to the fishing or harvesting spot,” The House and Home Magazine wrote. “Hauling in seine nets and oyster tongs heavy with fish or oysters wears on the body. It speaks to the tenacity and grit of the watermen that despite the harsh conditions, life has gone on with little changing except for the harvest of the seasons: fishing year-round, oysters in the winter, and crabbing in the summer.”
For years, the community was self-sustaining, with general stores and churches dotting the landscape.
At one point, there was even a movie theater.
As changes in the fisheries that sustained the community came, growth occurred and hurricanes left damage in their wake, the community changed.
But the heart and grit of its people did not.
Celebrating that is what lies a the heart of the Guinea Jubilee.
8784 Guinea Road, Hayes, VA 23072
Super easy to find, the Guinea Jubilee takes place just off of Guinea Road on the grounds of the Abingdon Ruritan Club.
Always held the last Friday and Saturday of September.
The annual event features the following events leading up to the two-day festival and during the celebration itself.
-5K Race and Kids’ Crabby Fun Run.
-Pedal the Loop
-Anchor throwing contest.
-Crab pot pulling contest.
-Arts and crafts.
The real question is why not? It really is one of the best ways to get yourself entrenched in some of the Middle Peninsula’s most culturally rich and vibrant communities. Also, the Guinea Marshes are some of the best paddling spots on the Middle Peninsula. Learn more about these and other paddling locations here.
Photos from the Guinea Jubilee.