Organizers are hoping that the weather is as hot as the food for this weekend’s 10th anniversary celebration of Canada’s largest jerk festival.
The Caribbean Promotions Arts & Culture (CPAC) JerkFest, combining spicy jerk food and pulsating Caribbean and Canadian entertainment, takes place on Saturday and Sunday at Centennial Park, 256 Centennial Pk. Rd. in Etobicoke.
Entertainers and visitors from Canada, the United States and Jamaica will visit the 20 jerk food booths and other exhibits and soak in the entertainment during the annual festival that outgrew Brampton’s Chinguacousy Park and was relocated to its current Etobicoke venue three years ago.
Jamaican reggae singer George Nooks is the headliner on Saturday (8 p.m.) while jazz artists Vickie Van Dyke, Eddie Bullen and Chris Smith perform on Sunday.
CPAC founding president Anthony Plummer, said close to 42,000 visitors attended last year’s event.
“The quality of the festival has risen each year and granted the weather is great and with the rich entertainment package we have put together, we are aiming for 65,000 this weekend,” he said.
Plummer, a Business teacher at St. Aloysius Gonzaga Secondary School in Peel, started the popular JerkFest with Roy Peters, who now lives in Alberta, and Rosemarie Rankin shortly after migrating to Canada 11 years ago.
“Some friends took me to the Taste of the Danforth just after I came here in 2000 and I asked them if there was no jerk festival in the city,” recalled Plummer. “When they gave me a negative response, my reply was, ‘Let’s start one’.”
This year’s festival features 20 jerk food vendors and another 25 selling light food, arts and craft.
At the end of the festival, a King of the Jerk – the criteria is food taste, texture and meat aroma – is crowned and the winner is presented with a trophy and the opportunity to return next year without having to pay a booth fee.
Mom’s Jerk is the defending champion.
There are also prizes up for grabs for the thousands expected to attend the event. They include a seven-day all-expenses paid trip sponsored by Nolitours to the Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort in Montego Bay, seven three-night accommodation-only trips to Travellers Beach Resort in Negril and three-night accommodation-only packages to the Plum Tree Club and the Yellowbird Hotel in Barbados.
Regular JerkFest visitors include Jamaican resident Stewart Stephenson who will be at this year’s festival. The former Jamaica Consul General in Toronto and Plummer were executive members of the Kingston & St. Andrew Soccer Association.
“I enjoyed my time with Jamaica soccer and JerkFest is admirably filling that void,” said Plummer.
The JerkFest format was expanded in 2007 to a second day and the organizers presented a bursary in 2010. This year, the CPAC is providing 10 bursaries to post-secondary students pursuing Arts subjects at a local college or university.
Administered by the Jamaica Canadian Association (JCA), the academic awards will be presented at their annual scholarships presentation in September.
“We are more than just putting on a food festival and having a good time,” said Plummer, a graduate of Jamaica’s University of Technology (UTECH). “We also want to promote academic excellence and encourage our young people to pursue post-secondary education. That’s critical in today’s evolving world.”
In addition to Plummer, the rest of the CPAC executive is Penny Providence (vice-president), Laurell Gordon (secretary), Claudette MacDonald (treasurer), Karen Dawkins (assistant treasurer), Cecille Chin (executive assistant), Adrian Charles (project manager) and Sandra Lewis (VIP co-ordinator).
Admission is free to JerkFest. For more information, check out the website: www.jerkfestival.ca