Caribbean festival draws a crowd

Celebrating the deep roots of the Caribbean culture, Tallahassee Caribbean Festival emerged for the first time Saturday with a regional focus and a variety of cuisine, culture, music and dance.

Founder and organizer Seymour Thompson has spent the past year branding and expanding the festival, which he describes as his passion project to bring awareness of the Caribbean culture to Tallahassee. The festival previously existed as the Tallahassee Caribbean Carnival.

“My purpose was to bring back the Caribbean culture that Tallahassee once had. I wanted to introduce the festival to those who feel nostalgic about being far away from their original place of comfort and give other people a chance to sample different cultures,” Thompson said.

The carnival began with women dancing on 10- foot stilts, masqueraders dazzled with beads, feathers and musicians banging out tunes in front of gawking children, eager teenagers and composed adults.  

Carnival began in Trinidad in the late 18th century as a religious rite celebrated before Lent, with slaves parading in West African masks. Now, it's one of the most anticipated events in the Caribbean culture.

“Coming to this event made me miss my beautiful island, Aruba. I always try to search for the rest of the Caribbean people because it is always a big family wherever you go. Whenever you are far away from home you can always find family around.  This event was amazing and hopefully there is another one next year,” Cassyenne Arenas said.

Music and food were the key attractions. Eye-catching neon signs labeled “jerk chicken” and “garlic crab” drew a crowd of people waiting patiently before purchasing a dish.

“I love Caribbean events because of the food the people and especially the music,” said Jensen Hurd.  

More than 1,200 people flocked to the two-day event that kicked off Friday at The Pavilion located in the Center of Tallahassee Mall. During the festival, the crowd was captivated by performances from Ras Valentino, Fluffy Rain, King Lion and the performance highlight by Pressure Buss Pipe, a reggae artist from St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Admission was free for the festival, which was set to run from noon to midnight. Transportation was provided for students at Florida A&M University as well as Florida State University. Friday’s concert tickets were sold for $10.

“Overall, I was excited with the turn out but I am looking forward to expand the audience next year,” Thompson said.