by Howard Campbell
MIRAMAR – After a two-year break due to COVID-19, the aroma of jerked food and feel of pulsating reggae rhythms were a perfect combination for Eddy Edwards and his team, organizers of the Grace Jamaica Jerk Festival.
The event made a grand return to Miramar Regional Park with a groundswell of support from fans of arguably South Florida’s most popular live show.
Edwards, who co-founded the festival in 2001, was pleased with the response.
“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.
Throughout the day, patrons savoured a variety of jerked food from vendors, and participated in family activities which included a live show featuring Tarrus Riley, Cham, Romaine Virgo and Christopher Martin.
There were also cameos from Mykal Roze and Duane Stephenson and during a break, Juliet Holness, wife of Jamaican prime minister Andrew Holness.
Edwards was satisfied with the overall production but gave certain areas extra points.
“One of the most pleasing aspects for the team was when we launched the festival app and to watch it function as planned. The Jerk Eats concierge service performed above expectations and we are very satisfied with its roll-out in partnership with Boston Jerk. We look forward to including more vendors in the future as the program expands,” he disclosed.
Edwards admitted he and his colleagues will go back to the drawing board to rectify some glitches.
“There were a couple of areas that underperformed and we were disappointed. We were hoping that the Hot Zone would attract a bigger crowd, but with the Main Stage featuring such heavyweights, festival fans had a stronger attraction to enjoying those performers,” he said.
The Grace Jamaica Jerk Festival was first held during a period of economic growth for South Florida’s Caribbean community. That coincided with mainstream acceptance in the United States of jerked cuisine which has been a staple in Jamaica for many years.
Reflecting on 20 years, Edwards, who is from Kingston, Jamaica’s capital, has no regrets.
“The team is grateful for the support from the community as well as sponsors who have made it possible for us to present the event over the years. The Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival’s positive impact on highlighting the culinary and cultural traditions of Jamaica is a testament to the dedication and hard work of the team,” he said.