CariFest celebrates Caribbean culture

Jordan Burton

The Caribbean Festival occurs in Minneapolis every year and is an event for bringing cultures together. "We love it ‘cause it’s our culture, you know, we’re from the Caribbean, this is the only kind of stuff from there around here we have, so we always get out here,” festival attendee Rasta Roddy said.

By Mari Knudson, Reporter

Clƒultures collided as the relatively tame streets of Minneapolis filled with calypso dancers, reggae beats, and traditional Caribbean food as part of the annual Twin Cities Carifest 2015. The festival, which took place July 24-25, was one of the many events offered at the 2015 Minneapolis Aquatennial Festival.

Inaugurated in 1994 as a way for those living in the Twin Cities to celebrate and share their Caribbean cultural heritage, Carifest celebrated its 21st anniversary this year. It was organized by Charles Peterson, originally from Antigua and Barbuda, and James Byron, of Trinidad and Tobago. Carifest is a nonprofit organization, and proceeds from Carifest 2015 went to the Caribbean Disaster Relief Fund.

The fest kicked off the 2015 celebration on July 24 with a music show and dance at the Minneapolis Mart. West Indian music group Avi and the Supertones performed.

The main function was the daylong festival on July 25, located on West River Parkway between the Plymouth and Broadway Avenue bridges. Events included a Masquerade Parade, live music, performers, and Caribbean food.

The food, which varies far from what one could typically get in Twin Cities restaurants, was a big draw of the festival this year. Vendors offered a variety of foods such as curried goat, red beans and rice, and fried plantains.

“My favorite thing about this festival is the food. There’s a place called Bread and Fish, and they have a nice sandwich for five bucks, which you don’t see in a restaurant everyday,” Carifest volunteer Mohammad Hasan said.

Another draw of the festival for some was the family friendly aspect of the event.

“I like it [Carifest] because it’s so friendly, it’s always a nice crowd, I’m never afraid for my safety, it’s always a nice, cool kind of crowd,” Carifest jewelry vendor Lynette Obayuwana said.

Obayuwana is no stranger to the colorful Caribbean festival. She has been selling her jewelry at Carifest off and on for the past 15 years. Many other attendees of this year’s festival had been coming since close to its inception.

“We’ve been coming to this festival for ten, maybe fifteen years now,” festival attendee Rasta Roddy said.

Roddy first found out about the festival through his nephew who plays cricket, an English game played in the Caribbeans. His nephew played cricket with the organizers of Carifest, who let him know about the festival. He and his friends have been attending the festival ever since.

I just love to come out and look at the culture, eat our cultural foods, and, you know, enjoy the music”

— Rasta Roddy

Roddy immigrated to Minnesota in the nineties from his native country of Guyana, which is located on the northern coast of South America. He says he enjoys spending the day immersed in Caribbean culture, which he has missed since he moved.

“We love it ‘cause it’s our culture, you know, we’re from the Caribbean, this is the only kind of stuff from there around here we have, so we always get out here,” Roddy said.

Other festival goers who were not so versed in Caribbean culture enjoyed the chance to learn more about it. Kelsey Hogan, of South Minneapolis, says she was new to the festival this year but has attended other cultural fairs .

“We go to the Irish Festival almost every year,” Hogan said. “I just love that it brings the community together, people that aren’t normally together, […] to spend a day together celebrating culture and eating foods that they normally wouldn’t eat.”

While not everyone at Carifest this year was Caribbean, everyone was able to take part in the culture.

“People share their culture, I’ve been coming here so long that I really feel like I’m familiar with it,” Obayuwana said. “I feel Caribbean today.”

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