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Jamaican Festival benefits recreation center

August 21, 2005|By PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

As steam rose from the jerk chicken cooking behind him, Jamaican-born Leroy Brown looked out from his food stand across Wheaton Park Saturday and expressed his love for community.

The food, some attendees of the Jamaican Festival at the park said, is what has kept them coming back every year. And Brown loves seeing it.

"Some people can't make it to Jamaica, so I give them a taste," Brown said with a broad smile.

Hundreds came out over the course of the day Saturday for the sixth annual festival, the donations from which benefit Memorial Recreation Center, said Hagerstown City Councilwoman Alesia Parson-McBean, who helped organize the event.

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The event is a joint venture with Memorial Recreation Center, the Jamaican citizens of Washington County and the Community Focus Group, which is composed of "everybody who gives a dollar to the center," she said.

She said, "Our goal is to do whatever we can" for the center, which sits beside the Martin Luther King Center on West North Avenue, off Jonathan Street.

Terri Jones, 11, of Hagerstown, said she helps at the center and wants to see it do well.

"The Rec needs help," she said. "It used to be everybody goes there, but now it's less and less."

She and friend Renaiza Branche, 12, said they planned to stay until the festival ended at 8 p.m.

"It's nice and relaxing," said Ron Frisby, 47, who was sitting in a lawn chair under a tarp he set up about 2 p.m. "There's good food and good fun for the community."

Representatives, some setting up tables, from the Washington County Health Department, Brothers United Who Dare to Care and the Democratic Central Committee, among others, came out for the event, Parson-McBean said.

As children played basketball, others sat on picnic benches that surrounded a gazebo. Reggae music played from speakers inside the gazebo.

Gerline Burnett, 69, said she likes the food at the event.

"It gives people the privilege to taste different food other than American food," she said.

This makes Brown happy. He said he likes seeing the youngest children come up to him to request any of his Jamaican dishes.

The Jamaican culture is one filled with love and togetherness, which is what makes the festival appealing to him, said Brown, who lives in Chambersburg, Pa.

"To me, as a Rasta, it should always be a get-together - to get together and love and marry," he said.

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