Columbus Caribbean Festival returns to Scioto Mile

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Festival-goers wave a Jamaican flag as The All Star Jammerz perform at the first annual Columbus Caribbean Festival Sept. 9. 2017 at Genoa Park in downtown Columbus, Ohio. Credit: Courtesy of Karl Francis

As summer comes to a close, Columbus will get a taste of the tropics thanks to the third annual Columbus Caribbean Festival this weekend. 

The festival, located along the Scioto Mile, will feature family-friendly activities, live music, carnival dancers and food vendors, Trish Wright, founder of the festival, said. 

Abba Blade, co-founder, said that while the event has a lot to offer, festivalgoers should try the selection of Caribbean cuisine, as it will leave a lasting impression. 

“The food will leave a nice taste days after you’ve had it,” Blade said.

Dave Cunningham, owner of Dave’s Caribbean Food and one of the festival vendors, said his food truck will offer a selection of Caribbean favorites, such as curry chicken, fried plantains and sweet potato pies. Cunningham said the jerk chicken and oxtail are his most popular items.

Cunningham said the seasoning and flavor is what distinguishes Caribbean food from other cuisine and contributes to the central role food has in Caribbean culture.

“Food is very important,” Cunningham said. “Because you can’t get it nowhere other else than the Caribbean islands or Jamaica the season, the taste, flavor.”

The festival also will feature a lineup of bands and musicians from a number of genres. Blade said Caribbean music is unique in its massive variety across the region.

“You got dancehall, you got reggae, you also got soca, you got calypso,” Blade said. “So it’s just different — the genre of music — but it all come together as one.”

The Flex Crew, a local reggae band, will perform at 8:30 p.m. Friday. Troy Jones, drummer and background singer of the band, said it brings a “reggae gumbo” to the stage through R&B, funk, hip-hop and rock influences. 

Jones said The Flex Crew is fortunate to have tapped into the city’s large Caribbean community, which brings regular crowds to the band’s weekly Sunday evening performances at Skully’s Music-Diner. Jones said the community contains a variety of nationalities, including Jamaican, Bahamian, Anguillian and Virgin Islander. 

He said he wants to see a wide representation of these nationalities at the festival.

“I always tell people, when you come to the Columbus Caribbean Festival, ‘Rep your country, bring your flag,’” Jones said. 

Taking the stage at 8:30 p.m. Saturday is soca artist Shurwayne Winchester. Soca is an up-tempo, fast-paced genre that is full of energy, Blade said.

“In Trinidad, they deal with soca, so that’s a different beat, that’s a different tempo, that’s a different style,” Blade said. “You’ve got to keep moving, dancing, whining.”

The infectious, interactive soca music conveys the “unwritten rhythm” that is naturally present in the Caribbean, Winchester said. 

“The music is in our DNA. If you take the music away from the Caribbean folks, there is nothing left,” Winchester said. “The music makes you feel whole.”

Winchester said that while he enjoys playing for his home audience in Chaguanas, Trinidad and Tobago, he feels he is not doing justice to the Caribbean culture. 

“The music has to spread,” Winchester said. “I want them to see how welcoming we are.”

Likewise, Blade said he would like to unite and educate people about the Carribean through the festival. 

“The Caribbean all and all is just like a hidden treasure,” Blade said. “Just come together as one and learn about the culture.”

Blade said a goal of the festival is to give back to the community. 

The Columbus Caribbean Festival will benefit the Wright’s Way Foundation, a nonprofit that gives back to local and Carribean communities through school drives, care packages and giveaways. This year, proceeds will also aid Caribbean communities impacted by Hurricane Dorian, Wright said.

“We’re going to accept donation at the festival, and we’re also accepting donation at our office,” Blade said. “We’re gonna play our part to give back to the Bahamas’ people.”

The Wright Foundation office is located at 6100 Channingway Blvd., Suite 300.

The Columbus Caribbean Festival will take place from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and continue on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. along the Scioto Mile. Admission to the festival is free.

 

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