All Photos by Ajamu Myrie

Torrential downpours couldn’t dampen the tremendous energy at Roy Wilkins Park in Queens, this past Sunday at the eighth staging of the annual Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival New York. The “Biggest Caribbean Food and Music Festival” delivered a full serving of everything that was promised as over 13,000 patrons enjoyed a variety of delicious jerk and other Caribbean fare as they immersed themselves in the entertainment and other offerings that food lovers and families have grown to expect each year.

Vendors such as Tower Isle Patties, Mr. C’s Jerk, Bev’s Jerk Center, T&G Flavors, Boston Jerk to name a few, were popular among patrons and did brisk business throughout the day. Non-meat eaters/Vegans had plenty to snack on as well with the debut of a new non-cooked raw vegan area by Island Blends as well as a Caribbean Farmers market offering fresh vegetables and fruit direct from Jamaica, presented by Farm Up Jamaica. In helping to combat the day’s high humidity, a wide variety of creative icy beverages from Pines and Iceez and more, were available to keep patrons cool.

In the Culinary Pavilion, hosted by Chef Irie Spice, things started with cooking demos with Chef Troy of Troy’s Table, and author/nutritionist Kamila McDonald. Both prepared plant-based meals; Kamilia’s dish was a tantalizing quinoa and jerk mushroom salad and Chef Troy served a tasty pumpkin & coconut tofu balls with sweet potato garlic beet mash. Celebrity Chef Patrick Simpson, whipped up an astonishing jerk salmon with coconut curried sauce and seasoned vegetable rice. A dish the audience immediately fell in love with, as the aroma filled the pavilion.

Immediately after Chef Patrick’s demo, the ladies of Spectrum’s NY1 went head to head for the Quick Fire Challenge. Ruschell Boone and Stacey- Ann Gooden both received mystery baskets which included salmon, anisette cookies, chayote, eggplant, and almond biscotti. Ruschell Boone came out on top with her “mash-up the place” dish that won the hearts and tummies of judges Chef Patrick Simpson and Scherie Murray, State Committee Woman. Ms Murray was also the winner of the competition in 2014.

Then came the moment everyone was waiting for, the Celebrity Chef Throwdown between Food Network’s Chef Ji Cha and Century 21 Fox’s Chef Cummings. Both received mystery baskets filled with kidneys, pumpkin, white yam, and baby food. The two simultaneously turned the kitchen into their own domains as they whipped up their dishes effortlessly. In the end, Chef Ji Cha took home the gold Dutch Pot trophy with her “Jammin’touille” dish and made history as the first Asian celebrity winner.

Entertainment on the main stage began at 12:45 pm with a variety of traditional and folk performances from the Braata Folk Singers, the Jamaican Junkanoo Masqueraders along with the talented singer, Andrew ClarkeAsoso International Ensemble (Afro Caribbean drummers and dancers) and a “Kolors in Bloom” fashion show by Kolor Mania Urban Wear.

Adding a new touch to the usual reggae, dancehall and soca acts, mega African, Afro-beats artist Patoranking brought a new vibe and energy this year. The Nigerian born performer had the crowd’s attention and they went wild when he performed his popular hit “My Woman, My Everything.” Breakout artist Hood Celebrityy who made her debut at Jerk Festival New York last year has achieved a huge amount of success since her last performance and included her massive hit “Walking Trophy” this year to a crowd of new and old fans alike. Elephant Man closed the show and even when the skies opened up to heavy rain, he performed like the Energy God he is and gave the umbrella filled crowd what they came for. Other performers included L.US.T., young dancehall artist Jahmiel and the group New Kingston.

Also on the stage was an exciting Grace Patty eating contest where a lucky audience member won $500.00. Another special moment was when VP Records and Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival presented a commemorative plaque to retired Lieutenant John Heihs and Community Liaison Detective Tanya Duhaney from the 113th precinct. Inspector O’Sullivan received plaque on the behalf of Lieutenant Heihs.

The little ones had a VIP section of their own with their own Kids Zone which offered face painting, rides and storytelling. Some of the games included a Kids Zone version of Black Panther and The World Cup. Arts & Crafts vendors offered unusual novelties, trinkets and island fashions to anyone willing to bargain for their wares. Many other brands were on site sampling and offering prizes such as Essentia Water, Wyndham Resorts, Laparkan Shipping, VMBS and FLOW.

The Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival, NY is sponsored by Moneygram, Laparkan Shipping, Tower Isle Patties, Continental Bakery, The Jamaica Tourist Board, HSBC bank and produced by Jamaican Jerk Festival NY, LLC in association with VP Records.

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