It was a festival first in downtown Durham on Saturday as residents gathered to celebrate Caribbean culture and a culinary staple — jerk.
Jerk Fest took over CCB Plaza to bring back traditional Caribbean values that many Triangle families want to pass on to their children.
Dawn Titus, one of the festival organizers, said it was important to bring the festival to Durham to help expand the community’s knowledge of the culture, and save Bull City residents some money.
“So people can taste the flavors of the Caribbean and enjoy some of the culture without having to get on a plane and fly away,” Titus said.
It was also important for organizers to include family-friendly activities, Liesl Jeffers-Francis said. She and Titus said that family plays a huge role in Caribbean culture.
“The ultimate goal however it to establish a cultural center where we can educate the whole community,” Jeffers-Francis said.
Titus said during the festival five chefs would have 90 minutes to create their best jerk chicken recipe.
Meats that have been cured with jerk spices have a spicy kick to them.
Dwayne Francis, organizer for Jerk Fest, said jerk originated in Jamaica when hunters would go into the hills to hunt and they needed a way to cure their meat. They started using Pimento, or a form of allspice to cure the meats. The rest is culinary history.
“When you taste jerk food, there’s a kick there,” Titus said.
The festival also played host to a kid’s zone and colorful Caribbean fashion as well as stations to play dominos, which Titus and Jeffers-Francis said was one of the most popular past times in the Caribbean.
The kid’s zone offered Caribbean themed activities like an egg and spoon race and three-legged races
“We want to make sure everyone enjoys themselves,” Jeffers-Francis said.
Titus said Durham and the Triangle alike has a large Caribbean population.
“We’re committed to making sure the Caribbean community can express their culture,” Titus said. “I think the more diverse and the more a community allow different individuals to express their culture the more tolerant we become, and the better the community is as a whole.”