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Caribbean Festival has authentic sights, sounds, smells and flavors

August 15, 2010|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI
  • Victoria Williams, right, takes a quick break from cooking Jamaican food and dances to the music Saturday during the Caribbean Festival at Wheaton Park in Hagerstown.
By Colleen McGrath, Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN -- Brenda Franklin had Jamaica on her mind.

Her 14-year-old granddaughter departed for the island nation Saturday to meet her father for the first time.

Meanwhile, at Wheaton Park in Hagerstown, Franklin, 56, of Martinsburg, W.Va., sat amidst a sort of small-scale Jamaica, taking in the same sights, sounds, smells and flavors that her granddaughter likely was experiencing in the Caribbean.

Franklin soaked the vibes of reggae music, jerk chicken and red snapper dishes, and traditional domino games at the Caribbean Festival. Some native Jamaican festival organizers dressed in symbolic black, green and gold and conversed in a Jamaican Creole language. Vendors peddled everything from beaded jewelry to mangoes and unleavened bread.

Franklin said she "loved" the event.

"I'm a fan of Jamaican culture," she said. "The music, the food, the atmosphere."

Festival organizer Tracy Garner said the event began 15 years ago as a party at the home of a native Jamaican who lived in the Wheaton Park area.

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"The party outgrew the house and they had to move it outside," Garner said.

It since has grown to include food, arts and crafts, and specialty vendors, in addition to reggae blasting from the central gazebo.

Lucinda Tate, 21, of Martinsburg, said she attends the event annually because Jamaican culture is part of her heritage. Her father and her husband both are Jamaican.

"I love the reality of Jamaican culture, the realness of it," she said. "No matter who you are, to the Jamaican people, you are like family. They show so much love and respect. You always know you got a place to stay. They'll give you food and shelter."

Organizer Theodore "Shorty" Williams, 50, of Hagerstown, served oxtails and rice along with his wife, Victoria Williams. He said between 300 and 400 people usually attend the festival.

LaScelle "Tall Man" Vernon and his wife, Sharon Chambers, 55, of Hagerstown, also serve on the organizing committee. In recent years, the couple has hosted an after-party at their home. Like the original celebration, the post-festival fete has exceeded capacity.

"The after-party at our house got so big, we had to move it to a club," Sharon Chambers said.

The festival was scheduled to continue from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. at Twisted Night Club in Spring Mills, W.Va., with live performances by reggae bands S.T.O.R.M. featuring Scotty P. and Ras Lidj & Deep Band.

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