By Charles Curtis III | For AC JosepH Media
CAMDEN — The Caribbean vibes were in full effect on Saturday, July 8, when the South Jersey Caribbean Cultural Organization held the 23rd Annual South Jersey Caribbean Festival took place at Camden waterfront.
The free multicultural event included community resources, children activities, raffles, giveaways. Each year the event draws in hundreds of attendees looking to represent their culture, highlight the cultural diversity of South Jersey and have a good time.
Attendees could patronize vendors as they displayed their many unique and culture infused merchandise while also being able to indulge in traditional Caribbean cuisine. Selections of jerk chicken, curry chicken, plantain were in abundance by Blossoms Sassa Bienne who served an ethnic Caribbean menu.
Food trucks like Grubaholics, served their own spin on a well-known classic offering jerk chicken cheesesteaks as a selection amongst a variety of other Caribbean dishes.
Lydia, from Philadelphia, attended the event this year for the first time. Lydia, a vendor, had her table adorned with traditional African fabrics and clothing. Lydia expresses the importance of celebrating Caribbean culture drawing a connection to her own experiences and culture.
“There’s multi-faces to African cultures — Caribbean and even Puerto Rican. Us celebrating today is us celebrating the multi-ethnicities of Africa,” she said.
Jo Moore Richard, from Yeaton, Pa., represents Trinidad and is participating at the festival for her second year as a vendor. Richard is the owner of Jo’s Garden of Jewels specializing in sustainable one-of-a-kind hand-made products. “I’m looking forward to all the fun that we’ll be having today and I’m going to be attending the Philly’s Caribbean Festival on the 20th,” Richard said.
Making it a family affair, Leroy Michael, from Philadelphia attended the event with his mother and brother. Michael expressed excitement as this was his first time attending this particular Caribbean festival. “I expect to see some togetherness, it’s so many ethnicities,” Michael said. “I love to see our people coming together and I’m expecting to have some fun. I look forward to seeing the talent.”
Camden’s Dee Bailey was one of many of the festival’s attendees dressed in traditional Trinidad carnival costumes. “I’m representing the Grenadians, and I’ve been attending this event for the past 20 years,” said Bailey, pointing to her bright orange outfit fitted with a shimmering gold plate and headdress which housed a variety of colored gems.
Entertainers like Camden’s own Universal African Dance and Drum ensemble, the Philadelphia Pan Stars Steel Orchestra and Trinidad native Lyrika were all slated to perform. However the event encountered scattered storms and torrential rainfall preventing the stage from being utilized, subsequently canceling the lineup.
In spite of the weather conditions, attendees still managed to have a great experience with many withstanding the rain with their umbrellas or in their cars until the weather became more comfortable. As the day continued the crowd were entertained by various displays. Stilted dancers known as ‘moko jumbie’ attracted onlookers with their vibrant colors and their stunning coordination. Later in the evening a fire eater also turned up the heat before a mesmerized crowd gathered before him.
They showed that a little rain can stop a concert, but it can’t stop the culture as attendees already look to next year’s celebration.
“My favorite thing about this festival is being amongst the different cultures here, and having a taste of flavor from Jamaica to Trinidad,” Bailey said. “I love the food, music, and the entertainment! I’m here to support the South Jersey Caribbean Cultural Organization. They’ve been doing this for so long and it’s amazing.”
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