It’s now history they say. I asked a few friends what they thought about the recent Jerkfest held in NYC. Most people who attended said they thought it was more organized and child-oriented than the ones they had attended in the past. Some who didn’t go asked, “ What’s so different bout dis Jerkfes … there have been so many,” I said, “Yes, but this one is different, it was produced by the team who put on the one in South Florida.” Responses, “Well, I wouldn’t have known…. It look like d same to me.”
Well, was it? Some years ago I had the pleasure of attending my first Jerkfes in Fort Lauderdale. My experience was so positive that I was in touch with the promoter/producer Eddie Edwards immediately after to let him know he had a winning formula. You’ll know I’m like that – totally enthusiastic about anything Jamaican that has future potential and includes the vibes, rhythm, passion and sexy Jamaican attitude well-known in our culture!
I eventually became involved in the two successive ones. The first on behalf of my client at the time and the following year I worked with the video team of Lukee Chong et al. That year, Allison Hinds was the performer and it poured buckets that September. I remember standing in the media tent with Allison and the patrons waited for the rains to die down to see her come-back performance. It was not to be….the rains did not hold up long enough for them to get even a peep of the beautiful Soca queen who was rearing to go. For the entertainment component that was a major disappointment to all. And so, the date was moved from out of the hurricane season in September to a safer spot and much cooler time on the calendar - November. I knew then it was Eddy’s dream to get the Jerkfes into every nook and cranny of the various states of the United States.
He is now on his way as he and his team finally arrived in NYC to hold the very first Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival in New York which was held at Roy Wilkins Park on Sunday, July 24, 2011. Due to personal constraints, I arrived at the event rather late. But who did I run into as I entered? I greeted both Eddy Edwards and Richard Lue, Director of Jamaican Jerk Festival USA. What a pleasure to see them both in NYC. From a professional standpoint I have always enjoyed working closely with these two gentlemen. Richard….the ever-present backbone organizer that he is…was on a bicycle making his rounds. Eddy in the heat…which of course he’s used to….calmly going about the days business. They both looked happy and reported that it was a good first start. I later saw Sydney Roberts, Vice Chairman, Jamaican Jerk Festival USA, and, and he too reported that they felt good about the event.
According to Eddy Edwards, Chairman of Jamaican Jerk Festival USA ,“We are very pleased with the positive response from patrons and participating sponsors to the initial staging of the Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival in New York.” He went on to state, “The success of the event was the result of good teamwork between our partner VP Records, support from title sponsor Grace Foods and Presenting Sponsor Digicel, as well as participating sponsors and vendors. The festival offered a combination of food, music and family entertainment which resonated with the community and attracted a diverse audience. We plan to build on this impressive start and deliver an even better festival next year.”
I also had an opportunity to speak with the title sponsor representative, Ricardo Bryan, Regional Business Manager (USA), Grace Foods, USA, who said, “it was a tremendous success, and we are proud to have brought The Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival to NYC. We always, knew that this City was yearning for a wholesome family event with a festival like atmosphere to just relax with friends and family on a lovely Sunday afternoon, while enjoying some of the best of our food, music – culture. It is our way to really “Spice Up” the summer with our Grace Seasonings, Sauces and Spices. Indeed, Grace Foods is pleased to be the Title Sponsor and next year will be even Bigger and Better.”
So, Eddy and his team now have a formula to tweak to perfection. I have written on this website before that if there is one thing I like about Eddy Edwards… it’s the fact that he listens to his patrons. He knows what customer satisfaction is all about. Mind you he, like any CEO works with data and numbers and if those numbers request something that’s within the team’s reach then trust me, it’s going to be done.
Veteran promoter/producer of outdoor Jamaican reggae festivals in NYC, Ken Miller,Vendor Coordinator of the Grade Jerkfes said, “This was truly the best attended food festival I have worked on or even attended. It was a joy to see the vendors busy making money, and most were sold out of food by 6pm.” I can definitely attest to that as when I went back closer to 8 p.m. for some jerk pork the Boston Jerk booth was all sold out and cleaning. Earlier there were long lines of patrons eagerly standing in the hot sun as they patiently waited for their turn to order up Portland’s favorite dish. We await next summer’s event with great anticipation.