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It’s the hottest event of the summer … for spice and temperature.

The Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival will explode with flavorful Caribbean cuisine, coveted cooking contests, cultural performances, kiddie fun, and hours of live reggae, soca, and dancehall at Roy Wilkins Park in Jamaica on Sunday, July 23.

With an “all-day, all-you-can-eat, all-you-can-jerk” theme, the gates will open around noon and close around 8 p.m. Attendees will be able to roam around an extensive Culinary Pavilion, where dozens of vendors will peddle their takes on this Jamaican cooking technique that involves dry-rubbing food with a sauce that often contains Scotch bonnet peppers. (Chicken is the most commonly jerked item, but pork, fish, lamb, vegetables, and even tofu get the treatment. An intrepid few even jerk ice cream.)

Some will compete for money, bragging rights as the “Jerk Champion,” and the coveted Dutch Pot Trophy, as decided by a panel of judges. In the Cook-Off Pavilion, West Indian cooking stars – including Andre Fowles of Miss Liiy’s Kitchen and Max Hardy, a former personal chef to NBA all star Amare Stoudemare – will battle in a Celebrity Chef Throw Down. BB King Executive Chef Wenford Patrick Simpson, who grew up in Jamaica’s St. Ann’s Parish, and Chef Hugh “Irie Spice” Sinclair will be the hosts.

At about 8 p.m., music acts will take a Main Stage. The headliners are the Grammy-winning reggae group Morgan Heritage and Barrington Levy, who has released more than 30 reggae and dancehall albums over his four-decade career. The lineup also features Konshens, one of dancehall’s constant hit makers since releasing “Gal A Bubble” in 2012, and British-born Barbadian soca sensation Alison Hinds. Platinum Kids, Ragashanti, and Dubmaster Chris will also perform.

At one juncture, Mayor Bill de Blasio will get into the act during the Quick-Fire Challenge, matching his jerk skills against Lisa Hanna, a former Miss World whose resume includes stints in Jamaica’s Parliament and as Minister of Youth and Culture. It’ll actually be a title defense for Hizzoner, who has beaten Miss Jamaica Universe Kaci Fennell and actor Leon from the movie Cool Runnings in previous years.

Meanwhile over at the Cultural Stage, storytellers and comedians such as Blakka Ellis, Dr. Sue, and Braata Folk Singers with tell tall tales using poetry, singing, dancing, riddles, proverbs, and jokes. Crafts vendors will have a spot, too, and sponsors will offer samples and giveaways from a Corporate Row. Finally, the Kidz Fun Zone will provide a bouncy house, rides, slides, cotton candy, popcorn, ice cream, rock climbing, face painting, and games.

Tickets are $35. This is Grace’s seventh annual festival in Roy Wilkins Park.

Images: Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival


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