On Memorial Day, May 27th 2019, the Palm Beach Jerk Food and Caribbean Festival marked its 16th anniversary in celebration of the vibrant cultures of the islands. It was a scorching day climate-wise, but the smooth reggae and soca grooves that filled the air definitely had a cooling effect. Held at the South Florida Fairground, the more the 6,000 festival-goers took advantage of the plethora of curated food vendors on-hand who were selling delicious culinary delights such as, jerk chicken, jerk lobster, spicy jerk shrimp, jerk pork and even jerk ice cream.
Meanwhile, the South Florida Fairground also featured an amusement park-like set up, complete with carnival rides with flashing lights, face painting, and an assortment of games for kids to play. And to liven things up as the sun disappeared below the horizon, this year’s Palm Beach festival patrons were treated to performances from a trio of top reggae musicians from Jamaica: Maxi Priest, Romain Virgo, and I-Octane. Romain Virgo, who also was on the bill for Buju Banton’s Long Walk to Freedom Concert in Jamaica, wasted no time in showing off his vocal talents while delivering ‘Love Doctor’, ‘Stay with Me’, ‘I Am Rich in Love’, and ‘Leave People Business’. And after his scintillating stage performance, Mr. Virgo stuck around and made himself available for photo ops with the throng of fans who had gathered around him backstage.
Next up was veteran singer, Maxi Priest, who unfortunately had his set cut a bit short as those in charge of the festival proceedings had to adhere to a strict timeline where the artists were concerned. Nonetheless, Maxi Priest was all smiles as he pranced on stage donning sunglasses and a bucket hat. Maxi Priest stoked pandemonium in the audience as they jumped for joy when he passionately unleashed his seminal hits, ‘Wild World’ and ‘Crazy Love’.
Putting a cap on the night was sing-jay, I-Octane, who I must say is perhaps one of the hardest working artists in Jamaica as his vault of hits just keeps expanding year after year. Not only that, but I-Octane has also established himself as a top-notch and must see stage performer. I-Octane somehow always finds a big trash can somewhere to hoist above head and carry out to the crowd to use as a platform to stand on and sing his songs while waving his arms back and forth. And that he did at this year’s Palm Beach Jerk Food Festival to the amazement of the densely packed crowd—while glowing in his neon green outfit shirt and cut-up white jeans. Few can argue at this point that I-Octane is not a well-rounded reggae superstar!
And so it was, the 16th Annual West Palm Beach Jerk Food Festival yet again staked its claim as being a top class Caribbean Cultural event. Complete with authentic Caribbean food and music, while also complemented by sun and fun this event is one of the longest running food-centric festivals that there is…and for good reason.
Photos by Nick Ford, who lives and works in South Florida.