BEFORE 2019 when the Jerk And Curry Music Fest debuted there, St Augustine had little Jamaican presence. Cancelled last year due to COVID-19, the event returns to the historic Florida city on September 25 at Francis Field.
Ian Walker, a Jamaican from Heartease, St Thomas, started the show in Jacksonville in 2013. He moved it to nearby St Augustine after its previous home at Metropolitan Park was no longer available.
Vendors from Jacksonville, Miami, and Atlanta are expected to show their jerked and curried cuisine, alongside American counterparts from the Carolinas who will showcase soul food.
Walker, who migrated to the United States in 1979, moved to Jacksonville after years living in South Florida. He worked as a broadcaster at WAVS 1170 AM and was a regular at the trendsetting Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival.
Jacksonville, he soon discovered, was not as receptive to West Indian culture.
“I never saw anything going on for Caribbean people. The carnival they had here, rarely would you see 100 people show up,” he told the Jamaica Observer.
Eight years ago, Walker launched the Jerk And Curry Music Fest which he says attracts mainly Americans. It also has a strong music flavour with acts like Spragga Benz, Tony Rebel, Glen Washington, and Shurwayne Winchester performing on it.
This year, Julian Marley is headliner with Everton Blender, Round Head and Professor Nuts completing the main cast.
Walker said he chose St Augustine because of its proximity to Jacksonville. Being the oldest city in the United States (founded in 1565), its economy is driven by tourism.
The architecture of early Spanish settlers and pristine beaches, are St Augustine's main attractions.
It is that lucrative market Ian Walker is eager to make inroads. He believes spicy food and reggae make a winning combination.
“People want to get out and enjoy themselves based on all the restrictions. At the end of the day, they want to have a good time and we have the right package,” he said.
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