Not even the intermittent rain and chilly weather could stop the over 8,000 patrons from pouring into Markham Park in Sunrise on Sunday (November 9, 2014) for the 13th annual Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival. The premier event offered a feast of succulent jerk foods, cultural enrichment and riveting entertainment for everyone, from grandparents to grandchildren.
Organizers promised it would be the “the most fun you’ve ever had,” and by all accounts, they delivered. Patrons were kept entertained with fierce cooking and domino competitions, cultural presentations and first-class entertainment on the Main Stage. As reggae artist Luciano brought the event to a crescendo and closed the curtains on another successful event, fans went home satisfied, yet still wanting more.
Jerk Masters Throw Down
Earlier in the day, competitors went head to head with their spicy dishes in fiery cooking competitions at the Publix Jerk Cook-off Pavilion. Patrons watched pro chefs and amateurs cook up their best jerk flavors as they tried to impress the judges for the win.
Assistant Coordinator Karen Grey says, “This year’s Publix Cook-off showcased professional chefs on all 5 stations. They each brought their A-game to make this one of the toughest competitions to date… In the end, every participant put their best foot forward and prepared some amazing dishes.”
Rocco Nankervis of Oceanaire Seafood Room in downtown Miami walked away with the golden Dutch Pot Trophy, a cash of $1,500 prize and bragging rights for first place. He unseated last year’s winner Jimmie Jackson, who placed third. Second place went to David Stample.
In the Celebrity Quick Fire challenge, Consul General Franz Hall threw down in the kitchen, beating his competitor, Diaspora Board representative, Wayne Golding.
For the Celebrity Chef Quick Fire challenge, Bahamian Executive and Celebrity Chef, Simeon Hall, Jr. went up against the award-winning culinary chef, nutritionist and published author, Haitian Chef Vicky Colas. In this cultural face-off, it was the Bahamian, Chef Hall, who cooked up the best jerk dish. Hall also displayed his cooking chops in a crowd-pleasing cooking demonstration.
This year the festival included the Kidz Quick Fire Challenge, its first cooking competition for kids. “We added this new element to the cook-off area so kids could display their culinary skills as well and it was a huge success,” says June Minto, one of the festival organizers. Children age nine to 12 from the City of Tamarac’s “Cooking for Kids” created their jerk dishes and Johanna Andrea Diaz took the top spot.
Organizers also promised celebrity sightings and among the celebrities was Miami Vice star Michael Phillip Thomas who popped by to observe his partner Sandi Morais in her cooking demonstration.
No Caribbean event is complete without the sound of the ivory cards on tables and heckling from all players in the game of dominoes — and Jerk Fest is no different. Large crowds gathered to watch the men and women contestants play their most cunning games, with a different partner each round, to take the top spot in the Jerk Dominoes Contest presented by sponsor Craig Zinn Automotive Group, and additional sponsors Dennis Shipping, Caribbean Shipping Corp, Golden Krust Bakery and Leo Gilling’s Allstate Agency.
Under the watchful eyes of Tournament Administrator Ruddy Schaaffe, final decision maker on all things dominoes, the domino enthusiasts battled and Vernon Coates outplayed his competitors, walking away with a first place win and cash prize of $1,000. Michael Wint and Kevin Donaldson won second and third with cash prizes of $500 and $300, respectively. While no woman player made it in the top three, they did remarkably well. Grace Martin-Edwards who placed 6th, Delores Smith 14th and Karen Friday, were given cash prizes as well.
Non-stop, Family-friendly Entertainment
But it wasn’t all about competition; there was entertainment at every turn. Whether it was performances from the Sierra Norwood Calvary Baptist Church kids or Dr. Sue and Friends “Celebrating Jamaica” on the Western Union Cultural Stage, or the eclectic assortment of bands on Fuzion Soundstage, there was not a dull moment. Poets, including Damali Adele Ife, and other entertainers roamed the park engaging patrons — ensuring everyone got their fill.
VP Records, which is celebrating 35 years in the USA this year, treated patrons to a history lesson on Jamaican music and the VP experience — complete with a fashion show featuring their popular Riddim Driven clothing line.
Main Stage Mania
Perhaps second only to the delectable jerk foods available all day long is the Main Stage entertainment to close out the event. This year the vibe was right, the performers were excellent and with their tribute to the legendary John Holt, the Main Stage was a phenomenal success.
With full bellies and umbrellas in hand, patrons marked their spot in front of the Main Stage where they were treated to a musical feast from veteran reggae group Inner Circle and Dean Fraser, ace reggae singer Luciano and the younger stars Tarrus Riley and Duane Stephenson. Comedian Christopher “Johnny” Daley and radio announcer Jody-Ann Gray had the audience in stitches with their stage antics.
The musical explosion on the Main Stage closed out what was arguably the best Jerk Festival yet.
The 13th Annual Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival is presented by Jamaican Jerk Festival USA, Inc., in association with Jamaica Awareness, Inc. Sponsors are Grace Foods, Publix Super Markets, Western Union, 1-800-411-PAIN, Jamaica Tourist Board, Red Stripe, Caribbean Airlines, Vitamalt, National Weekly, Jamaicans.com and SunnyBiz Transport.