Delightful offerings at Grace jerk fest
Romain Virgo and Christopher Martin

DANCEHALL artiste Laa Lee, reggae artistes Protoje and Lila Ike, singers Christopher Martin, Romain Virgo, Nadine Sutherland, and dancehall veteran Spragga Benz thrilled patrons at the Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival New York last weekend with hits from their respective catalogues.

The organisers of the festival are still upbeat, after the event drew an estimated 15,000 patrons inside Roy Wilkins Park on Sunday, August 31.

According to Eddy Edwards, marketing director, the festival delivered a feast of food, music and culture.

"The 10th anniversary of the Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival in New York was a tremendous success. We had perfect weather and patrons enjoyed themselves as they experienced the various features of the festival designed to provide entertainment for every member of the family. Vendors did extremely well, with long lines as they struggled to keep pace with demand. It was good to see families out again enjoying the food, music and cultural presentations, and being able to engage with our sponsors and exhibitors," said Edwards.

Edwards continued, "The highlight of the event, for me, is always just watching the crowd as they enjoy themselves — but it was very special to have Eric Adams, the mayor of New York City, present a proclamation in celebration of our 10th anniversary, which coincides with our title sponsor Grace Foods' 100th anniversary. It was also good to be back in Roy Wilkins Park after a two-year hiatus and having the opportunity to engage the community and provide the unique experience of the Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival."

According to Edwards, there were no major challenges in the staging of the event.

"There was really no major challenge to stage the event. We actually were able to begin to set up the event a few days earlier than normal and this made things a lot easier on the production side," Edwards shared.

"We definitely met our objectives to be back in New York to celebrate our 10th anniversary in a major way, and we were successful with several pre-festival promotional activations which included sponsors Grace Foods, Western Union and Vitamalt. Other sponsors such as Metroplus Health, the Jamaica Tourist Board, and the VM Group all benefited from being associated with the festival and all the promotions on various media platforms.

Derrick Reckord is the president and CEO of GraceKennedy Foods (USA) LLC.

"GraceKennedy USA, through our Grace brand, has been the title sponsor for the Grace Jamaica Jerk Festival, New York, since its inception in July of 2010. We are proud of the association with such an event that brings recognition to the food and culture of Jamaica to the world. As the GraceKennedy Group celebrates its 100th year and Jamaicans everywhere celebrate the country's 60th year of Independence, it was thrilling to see over 15,000 people enjoying the flavor of real jerk from Grace and reggae music that made Jamaica a household name. The event really showed one of the many ways that Grace is truly 'The Taste That Moves You'," quipped Reckord.

Among the high-profile people who attended the festival were state Senator Leroy Comrie, Congressman Lee Zeldin, Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, Queens City Council members Nantasha Williams, and Selvana Brooks-Powers.

"We're very pleased with the results from the event. The turnout was strong, the people seemed to really enjoy themselves, and the production came off without incident," said Edwards.

Queens-based restaurant advocacy group Queens Together sponsored a "People's Choice Award" competition for selected restaurants at the festival, with Ya Suh Nice from Jamaica, Queens, taking home the trophy. The Grace Foods Best Jerk Vendor award went to Bowlden Trillz Restaurant from Brooklyn.

The cultural segment got the day started with performances by Asase Yaa Cultural Group, Nigy Boy, and fashions by Mamayashi as 'cultural ambassador' Sharon Gordon schooled the audience in cultural facts.

In the Grace Culinary Pavilion, business mogul and television producer Mona Scott-Young won the 'Celebrity Quick-Fire Challenge' over radio personality Angela Yee. The Culinary Pavilion also featured demonstrations by celebrity chefs Darian Bryant and Troy Levy. Returning alums included celebrity chefs Andre Fowles, Maxell Hardy, Ron Duprat, Eddie G along with Host Chef Irie, and special guest, Chef Natacha Gomez.

Activities for the young at heart included arts and craft, face painting, family friendly games, soccer, cricket and tug-of-war.

The Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival is produced by Jamaican Jerk Festival NY LLC, in association with VP Records.

Romain Virgo
Radio personality Angella Yee (left) and business mogul and TV producer Mona Scott-Young won the Celebrity Quick Fire Challenge in the Grace Culinary Pavillion.
A section of the crowd attending the Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival New York on Sunday, August 31.
Lila Ike
Kevin Jackson

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