ATLANTA GETS READY FOR ITS 8th ANNUAL GRACE CARIBBEAN JERK FESTIVAL, SEPTEMBER 1!

BY HOWARD CAMPBELL—-

THE southern United States is known for its love of saucy and spicy cuisine, making Atlanta the perfect place to hold a jerk festival.

On September 1, the eighth annual Grace Atlanta Caribbean Jerk Festival will be held at Panthersvile Stadium in Decatur, a suburb of the Georgia capital.

Top: Organizer Glen Simmonds and his wife Cheriel. Bottom: Crowd at a previous staging of Grace Atlanta Caribbean Jerk Festival.

Glen Simmonds, the event’s chief organiser, says its objective is two-fold.

“It allows Caribbean nationals to re-connect with things they did back home, and also introduce the Jamaican culture to Atlanta and neighbouring states,” he told the Jamaica Observer.

The St Ann-born Simmonds says the festival has come a long way since it was held in “somebody’s backyard” in 2006.

“We started with five food vendors, now we’ve got over 20. We could easily have over 50 but we want our vendors to make money,” he said.

According to Simmonds, the 2012 edition of the Grace Atlanta Caribbean Jerk Festival was its biggest, attracting over 8,000 patrons.

Born in the coastal town of Runaway Bay, Simmonds has lived in Atlanta since 1986. He attended Moorhouse College, majoring in Mass Media Arts and worked as a disc jockey at WCLK 91.9 FM, where he hosted the Natural Mystic programme.

He has seen Atlanta’s Caribbean population swell in the last 20 years. There have been numerous reggae/soca shows there during that period. Presently, there are over 150 restaurants, most of them Jamaican.

This year, the jerk festival will have a health affair for the first time. Simmonds says it was influenced by a major heart attack he suffered in February.

Part proceeds from the event — which features Luciano — will benefit the Atlanta-Montego Bay Sister Cities Foundation.

 

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