By Stuart Wilson
The sixth Clermont Caribbean Jerk Festival on Saturday, June 10, was described as “very successful” by the Caribbean American Association of Lake County (CAALC) leadership. This sentiment was echoed by attendees throughout the afternoon and evening.
“This was our best yet,” said Cuqui Whitehead, CAALC president. The steady stream of enthusiastic festival goers started at noon when Mayor Gail Ash declared the festival open. The flow was interrupted once for a brief shower that couldn’t dampen the crowd’s spirit.
The rain arrived as one of the Festival’s signature events, the Parade of Countries, was about to start. Unfazed, the stilt walkers and marchers made good use of the Pavilion’s shelter to parade around and through the cheering crowd. The crowd heartily appreciated the “No problem, man” attitude on display. Everyone was swaying to the sound of the reggae and soca music, which drowned out the patter of the rain.
Once the shower was over and the temperature and humidity became manageable, everyone went back to tasting the savory foods and tropical fruits, listening to the exotic sounds of the Lake Steel Orchestra, and enjoying each other’s company.
It is worth noting that the rain shower did not affect the amount of smoke coming from the barbecues operated by vendors like the Sunshine Caribbean Bakery and Papa Jerk. The cooks never stopped preparing delicious jerked pork and chicken. These two vendors, by the way, happened to finish first and second, respectively, in the Jerk Competition.
The Jerk Festival is a key fundraising event for CAALC, which uses funds raised at events like the festival to sponsor scholarships for Lake County high school seniors, support youth mentoring programs, and contribute to other efforts, such as disaster relief.
Festival planners said they are already working to make next year’s Clermont Caribbean Jerk Festival even more fun.