AFTER a two-year break due to COVID-19, the Grace Jamaica Jerk Festival returned to South Florida on November 13. Organisers had plenty to celebrate at Miramar Regional Park.
Eddy Edwards, co-founder of the event, was happy to see a full house of patrons traversing the lush expanse of booths, most of which served jerked cuisine.
"We are all elated to be back celebrating our 20th anniversary, Jamaica's 60th, and title sponsor Grace Foods' 100th. It was a good feeling seeing festival fans back in the park enjoying themselves after a two-year hiatus," he said.
As is customary, food shared the bill with music. Sound systems blared dancehall and soca music, setting the stage for an live evening show featuring Cham, Tarrus Riley, Romain Virgo, and Christopher Martin. There were cameos from Mykal Rose and Duane Stephenson.
The best 'performers', however, were those people manning the booths.
"Vendor interest was high since the festival was announced in February, and all vendor spots were sold out weeks before the event," Edwards disclosed.
There was a bit of drama following Riley's workmanlike set. Juliet Holness, wife of Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness, was booed by a section of the crowd while making a speech.
The Kingston-born Edwards and his colleagues started the Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival in 2001. It has long outgrown its Caribbean brand to attract corporate support from major companies such as Publix supermarket as well as members of South Florida's diverse demographic, which includes the massive Spanish community.
"Being able to sustain the event successfully for 20 years is a feat of which we are proud and we'll continue to showcase the food, music, and culture of Jamaica and the wider Caribbean to our core audience and the wider American community," said Edwards.