‘Turnout was unbelievable’
LOVERS LEAP, St Elizabeth — Culinary and tourism leaders on the south coast say the successful staging and support on night one of the inaugural staging of the three-day Treasure Beach Food, Rum and Reggae Festival is clear indication that the event has vast potential here.
Jason Henzell, co-conceptualiser of the event, told the Jamaica Observer that “the turnout was unbelievable”.
“I hope everybody in Jamaica can see how Lovers Leap has been transformed with the lighthouse in the background and the staging by West Palm Production. Everything just came together so beautifully,” he said during an interview backstage on Friday night.
Henzell, a leading hotelier in the popular south coast community tourism-based Treasure Beach, said the spin-off from the event will re-energise and support St Elizabeth’s breadbasket reputation.
“The idea is that it will become an annual event. It is really about making St Elizabeth re-establish its identity as the breadbasket parish, so that was the foundation of the idea, so it is all about food first, ‘bigging up’ our farmers, chefs and mixologists,” he said.
The event at Lovers Leap saw patrons rocking to the performance of Richie Spice.
Earlier in the day the festival commenced with a ‘Catch-the-sunset’ boat trip to Pelican Bar in St Elizabeth.
On Saturday, there was the Reggae Breakfast Buffet at Smurfs and the YaadMan Gas/Sealand Foods Cook-off, which featured Lil Ochie’s Blackie and Henzell. There was also a Midday Reggae Party, private island lunch and Treasure Beach Bar Crawl, as well as a Jesse Royal concert at Jack Sprat.
“Right now you can’t find anywhere in Treasure Beach, Southfield, or Black River to stay. Every single room is full and that is what I really feel good about. All the restaurants and bars are doing well… Everybody has really rallied around the idea [of the festival] and made it a success… I know this thing can become massive,” added Henzell.
Junior Lowe, owner of Jamaican Chinese restaurant Flamin Wok, commended the conceptualisers of the festival.
“It is an amazing idea, I want to see it go through nicely, so that next year it will be bigger,” he said on Friday night. “It is a very positive step for tourism on the south coast. If you look around now you realise the venue has a lot of tourists. Jamaica, on a whole, is viewed as a culinary destination and I offer a Jamaican Chinese type of cuisine. The Jamaican aspect of it draws the tourists because they love the different spices and flavours of the Jamaican cooking,” he said.
Evrol “Blackie” Christian, owner of the world famous Lil Ochie Restaurant and Bar, is already looking forward to another staging of the festival.
“The whole concept of this festival derived from me and Jason Henzell sitting down and just trying to create something new in St Elizabeth… We have good food in Alligator Pond, so it is a combination of good food plus you know the heart of the rum is from St Elizabeth,” he said.
“As community tourism this is very important for us on the south coast. This is a first staging and we expect it to grow into a grand event. We on the south coast believe in doing this that everybody benefits — farmers, shopkeepers,” added Christian.
Day three activities take place at Breds Sports Park. It will feature a Festival Village with an assortment of over 25 artisans and vendors, including Middle Quarters pepper shrimp vendors. Cheapside, Comma Pen, Newell, and Tadd Pen are set to have a play-off in two T20 curry goat cricket matches, with a 12 noon Rum Break. To culminate the day, Luciano will be live in concert.