Enjoy the Caribbean sans hurricanes
African/Caribbean Celebration offers exotic eats, music
By Lisa Brown firstname.lastname@example.org
You don’t have to buy a plane ticket and worry about the weather in order to enjoy the tastes and sounds of the Caribbean. They’re all in Manchester’s backyard. The annual African/Caribbean Celebration happens this Saturday, Aug. 25, at Veterans Park, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The day-long food-and-music festival is an annual event recognizing the growing ethnic diversity in the Queen City and surrounding areas.
“One of the things that make this event characteristic and significant is that we really focus on involving local community members,” said Woullard Lett, chairman of the African/Caribbean Celebration. “The main purpose is community-building, to provide the opportunity for social interaction and relationship-building among members of the very diverse community of African descent.”
“I really like it because being in Manchester it is very difficult to connect with the minority population and the festival is an opportunity to meet and greet a variety of people, black and white or whatever,” said Zelma McKinney, of Premier Pallette, a restaurant on Elm Street. “I like the camaraderie of meeting different people, especially other professionals, and the entertainment is normally very good.” This is the third year Premier Palette is providing food at the event. McKinney says she shuts down her restaurant and tells all her customers to meet her at Veterans Park if they’re hungry. McKinney isn’t about to miss the festival.
The lineup of entertainment is likely to make you wish for an island vacation, or at least an umbrella drink at a tiki bar. Expect steel drums, hip-hop and maybe even a little reggae. Performers include Albert and Family (from the Republic of Congo), Caribbean Youth Dance Troupe (Dominican Republic), Mystic Vibes (Jamaica), NFBC African Drumming Gospel Group (Pan-African), Rhumbafrica (Republic of Congo), Somali Dancers (Somalia), Sudanese Traditional Dancers (Sudan) and the Ziyaddah Komfum Drum and Dance Troupe (Pan-African).
Food for the festival is being prepared by several area restaurants and specialty cooks. There will be African barbecue, Jamaican cuisine including jerk chicken and beef from Soucy Caribbean Catering, and Southern cuisine from Premier Palette including fried fish, collard greens, fried corn, corn bread, dirty cole slaw and a few festival surprises.
The dirty cole slaw is a secret recipe of Zelma McKinney’s.
“My recipes are family recipes and I don’t give away my recipes,” McKinney said.
“They [festival-goers] love that dirty cole slaw. It is vinegar-based, it has special spices and seasonings and it is drizzled with homemade barbecue sauce,” McKinney said. “It has a sweet-tart taste and is very refreshing.”
McKinney plans on serving a mix of southern and soul food, including smoked beef brisket and southern fried fish with hush puppies. She will also serve ox tail, a Haitian-African dish that is popular in Jamaica and at the Premier Palette.
“I braise them [ox tails] in canola oil, season them and then put them in a pan and cover them with water and season them with onion and pepper and cook ’em slow,” McKinney said. “We serve it over rice; it has a really nice gravy.”
For dessert, there’s sweet potato pie and Georgia Butter Pound Cake.
Vendors will sell traditional African and Caribbean arts and crafts at the festival. The African/Caribbean festival is free and organizers say they expect several thousand people to attend.
“This annual event serves as a salve for the feeling of social isolation and cultural alienation experienced by New Hampshire residents of African descent, “ said Woullard Lett. “Our motto for the event is ‘Understanding is the only antidote for intolerance.’”
For more information on the African/Caribbean festival call 627-4631.