Morgan Heritage headlines Jamaican Jerk Fest

By Naeisha Rose

There will be fun for the entire family at Roy Wilkins Park as the Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival kicks off at noon Sunday in Jamaica.

The seventh annual celebration will include a Jerk Cook-Off, poetry, riddles, dancing, and jokes. There will be vendors, sponsored giveaways, and children’s activities, according to the Queens Economic Development Corporation’s office.

“Jerk” refers to a dry-rubbing technique for chicken and pork with spices, according to the QEDC. During the cook-off, chefs and celebrities will compete for bragging rights, money and the Dutch Pot Trophy.

Joining in on the competition will be Mayor Bill de Blasio, BB King Executive Chef Wenford Patrick Simpson from St. Ann in Jamaica, West Indies, and former Miss Jamaica Lisa Hanna, who is now a part of the Jamaican Parliament.

There will be eight musical acts performing. Reggae, Soca and Dancehall stars Barrington Levy, Alison Hinds, Platinum Kids, Ragashanti, and Dubmastter are expected to get on stage, according to the QEDC.

Headlining the music portion of the festivities is the Grammy Award-winning Reggae group Morgan Heritage, which consists of siblings Peter Morgan, Roy Morgan, Nakhamyah Morgan, Memmalatal Morgan and lone sister Una Morgan, according to QEDC.

This is the family’s first time performing at the festival and Queens’ is dear to them. When a record deal with MCA Records fell a part, it was the independent Jamaica Queens label, VP Records, that picked the group up, according to Una Morgan.

“After our MCA deal went south, VP came on and took the Morgan Heritage brand to another level, so its a pleasure to be here,” Morgan said.

She is looking forward to being enveloped with love by people that love Caribbean music and culture at the park, which is located at 177-01 Baisley Boulevard.

“Being around fans from all over the world that love Jerk Chicken and that love good entertainment, not just Reggae, but from all over the Caribbean is specials,” Morgan said. “It’s about enjoying the Caribbean vibes and Jerk Chicken is a big staple in our culture.”

Despite switching to a pescatarian diet, a diet that mostly consists of fish, Morgan is planning on having a cheat day for the festivities.

“I’m fish and vegetables with my new lifestyle, but for that day I will have some chicken!”

The event includes snacks like cotton candy, ice cream and popcorn. Children will get to play in a bouncy house, go down slides, rock climb, and have their face painted, according to QEDC.

Vendors will sell pan-Caribbean products and Caribbean sponsors will giveaway samples of items like the Vita Malt drink, according to jerkfestivalny.com.

Comedian Blakka Ellis will get the crowd going and Braata Folk Singers will offer traditional performances, according to jerkfestivalny.com. Tickets can be found at jerkfestivalny.com or the QEDC website.

Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.