Great food, great music, great fun at Jamaican Jerk Festival on Sunday

Aug 22, 2019

It’s a little tangy, a bit spicy, and rather smoky. It’s also the inspiration for a tremendous, all-day party.

The Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival New York will take place at Roy Wilkins Park in South Jamaica on Sunday, Aug. 25, from noon to 8 p.m.

Editor’s note: This event was originally scheduled for July 21, but it was postponed due to extreme heat. It was re-scheduled for Aug. 25 with almost the same list of performers and vendors. QNS reported on the festival a month ago. Updated information follows.

Though its name honors a marinade that’s heavy in scotch bonnet peppers and all spice — and fantastic with meat and vegetables, this ninth annual extravaganza is actually the biggest Caribbean music expo in the United States. Reggae, Soca, and Dancehall superstars from around the world will perform to an expected 20,000 spectators.

There will also be dozens of vendors and novelty booths and a Kidz Zone with a bounce house, rides, slides, rock climbing, face painting, and games.

Tickets are $39.

Bunji “Lyrics King” Garlin, a Soca and Ragga Soca artist from Trinidad, headlines the entertainment. He will share the stage with his wife, Fay-Ann Lyons, who has won Trinidad’s prestigious Carnival Road March title three times.

Scheduled Jamaican performers include Dancehall vocalist Christopher Martin, whose album “And Then” reached number one on the Billboard Reggae chart; singer/songwriter Naomi Cowan, a former Miss Teen Jamaica who has a current hit with the single “Paradise Plum;” and Capleton, who sings “Jah Jah City” and “Good in Her Clothes.” All the while, Jamaica-born comedian Blakka Ellis will weave storytelling with jokes and patois.

While the Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival New York is a top-notch opportunity for musicians to get exposure, it’s also the ideal spot for Caribbean chefs to demonstrate their talents to a large, appreciative audience. Cooking demonstrations will start at 12:30 p.m. They’ll feature Chef Darlene, co-owner of Banks Catering and Private Chef Services; Chef Rudy Straker from the HULU Series “Around The Way;” Chef Troy from Troy’s Table; Chef Sam Davis, co-owner of Field Trip Restaurant in Harlem and chef de cuisine of Henry Nomad Restaurant; and Chef Max Hardy, author and co-owner of Coop and River Bistro in Detroit.

At 4:20 p.m., singer Fay-Ann Lyons will match her sizzling and stewing skills with those of Donna Marie Lombardi of VH1’s Black Ink Crew in the Celebrity Quick Fire Challenge. Then things will really get hot during the Celebrity Chef Throw Down at 5:15 p.m., when Cybille St. Aude, who specializes in Haitian cuisine and appeared on Food Network’s “Chopped,” matches her expertise with Ji Cha, a Korean gastronomist who was seen on Fox 5’s “Hell Kitchen.”

May the best dish win!

At other times, organizers will pay tribute to the Rt. Hon. Dr. Louise Bennett-Coverley, a deceased poet and activist whose verses capture Jamaican patois and culture. The Renaizancers will relate West Indian history through dance. Mamayashi will offer an Afrocentric fashion show. Asase Yaa Drumming and Dance Troupe and Asase Yaa Kids Dance Group will carry on the Ring Ding tradition.

Roy Wilkins Park is bordered by Merrick and Baisley boulevards and 115th and 116th avenues. Most of the space will be used for the festival.

The term “jerk” refers to a way to season food. The word probably derives from the Peruvian-Incan word “charqui,” which was a dried strip of meat. (The same word led to “jerky” in the U.S.) Though it’s associated with Jamaica, which was its probable birthplace, there are jerk huts throughout the Caribbean, as well as Brooklyn, Queens, and Florida.