Vendors hail Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival South Florida edition
Chef Tally tends to jerk ribs on a grill at the 21st annual Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival

The smell of jerk greeted patrons as they entered the grounds of the Miramar Regional Park in Miramar, Florida at Sunday's staging of the 21st annual Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival.

With a variety of food vendors sprawled along the sidelines of the enclosed location, patrons had a field day filling their stomachs with several delicacies including fried fish, fried chicken, jerk chicken, jerk pork, jerk shrimp, jerk lobster, soup, bammy, festival, pasta dishes and jerk ice cream. Yes, jerk ice cream.

Having worked at the Golden Dragon Chinese restaurant in Jamaica in the 1970s before he migrated to Florida, Clifton Samuels came armed with years of experience in the culinary world when he started Cliff's Restaurant in South Florida.

On Sunday, he was a vendor at the festival, a task that he has undertaken since the festival began 21 years ago.

"We got involved in the Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival from its first staging 21 years ago. We were doing other events within the Diaspora and when the organisers approached us, we decided to participate and it has been a very good experience," Samuels shared in an interview with Observer Online.

He added, "I'm doing something I really like, so I keep coming. I like to feed people and the vibe here has been very good. As you can see, we have a long line here, what does that say about the food?

With a smile on his face, Samuels and the rest of his team attentively served customers a variety of meals which also included jerked conch and conch fritters.

Carlene Lyn, the operator of Aunt May Fish Fry & Catering was also in high spirits about the festival.

Carlene Lyn proudly displays a fried snapper fish at the 21st annual Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival

"This is the first time that I am doing this event and wow, it has been amazing. I usually do fish fry on Fridays at my home here in Florida and so a friend of mine introduced me to the jerk festival," said Lyn.

She started the business three years ago following the death of her mom. Her family also operates a location at Hellshire Beach in Portmore.

"My mom passed away three years ago, and so I decided to do this business in honour of her," Lyn reasoned.

Tally Wallen, better known in the food circles as Chef Tally, is widely known for his delicious jerk pork, jerk chicken and ribs. He operates a food truck weekly, which gets support from members of the Diaspora.

This is his 13th time participating in the jerk festival.

"The support today has been great, the lines have been consistent. I do this because they (the organisers) asked me to do it. It's a lot of work, nut no work, no game," said Wallen.

Clifton Samuels of Clifton's Restaurant

He continued, "I have been a vendor at this event since the first staging at Markham Park and it has worked out well for us."

More than a decade ago, Jerome Williams' grandparents started Islanders Jerk and he has continued the business even though he works in the hospitality sector in South Florida.

This is the first time that he has participated in the jerk festival as a vendor. The consistently long lines leading to his stall bear testament to the taste and aroma of the meals being prepared.

"We are a family-oriented business and we operate in Hollywood. Being here at the jerk festival has been good for us, as we are networking and building our clientele and customer base. And so far, it has paid off handsomely for us," said Williams.

Islanders Jerk boss Jermone Williams

He added, "We saw the ads promoting the festival so we said, why not do it? We had nothing to lose. We wanted to showcase our flavour and menu and it's also great to see all the families out enjoying themselves and having fun."

The Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival South Florida edition also featured the Western Union Cultural Stage which highlighted Jamaica's rich culture and legacy.

The main stage saw performances from the likes of Ding Dong and Ravers, Grammy nominee Collie Buddz and Morgan Heritage.

BY KEVIN JACKSON Observer Writer

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