Ahhh, the Caribbean. The Caribbean usually sparks a relaxing feeling in many people because it is associated with summer vacations and perceived as an amazing retirement spot. Did you know that New Orleans is referred to as the Caribbean’s northern-most city? So, it makes sense that many Caribbean cruises leave the New Orleans docks each year.
The New Orleans Caribbean Festival is a young multi-cultural festival established to celebrate Caribbean culture and emphasize the cultural connection between New Orleans and the Caribbean. A perk resulting from the youth of this festival was that it was not overly crowded. So instead of spending your time waiting in lines and getting bumped by people, you can have your personal space to enjoy yourself! The festival attracted a wonderful crowd of locals looking to hear live music and soak up some Caribbean culture. The people enjoyed swaying, singing and dancing along to music from nine different countries. The bands that I most enjoyed came from Jamaica and Cuba.
Of course, we have to talk about the food. After careful consideration, I decided on a place called The Pupusa Lady. The ceviche was tempting, but I ultimately chose the delicious Caribbean barbecue chicken paired with fried rice and beans and pupusa. Pupusa is a traditional Salvadorian dish. It is described as a thick tortilla that is usually stuffed with cheese, beans, or meat. To put a Caribbean twist on the pupusa for the festival, they stuffed it with plantains!
I had the pleasure of meeting an artist named Kevinat his tent. I was intrigued by his vibrant, colorful pieces. When I asked him what inspired his work, he explained to me his love for New Orleans, Caribbean and African cultures. He wanted his work to reflect his love for these cultures and show them beautifully blended together. Kevin was proud to follow in his father’s footsteps as a talented artist. He made the decision to not attend art school because he already had the best teacher: his father.
Another tent that intrigued me (because I am a health nut) was the Fresh Cane tent. Fresh Cane is a local company that produces sugar cane juice. The founder, named Arpit, was kind enough to let my boyfriend and I sample his local sugar cane juice. To my surprise, it was absolutely delicious. I have previously tasted plain sugar cane juice and I remember having a hard time drinking that cup. The Fresh Cane juice tasted completely different from that first juice experience. Arpit explained that they add ginger and lemon to the juice. Not only does this add amazing nutrients, but it made the juice taste phenomenal as well! If you wish to try it yourself, Fresh Cane can be found at the Downtown Farmers’ Market in New Orleans.
After a Caribbean rum punch, people were ready to salsa (regardless of how hot it was). Two salsa dancers led the group as we danced our cares away. I like to think I held my own next to those instructors, but it doesn’t matter how well you dance as long as it puts a smile on your face!
All in all, the Caribbean Festival will definitely give you a “don’t worry, be happy” feel by the end of it. The vibes were positive, the adults were happy, the children were playful, and the food was good! I have a feeling that this festival will grow in popularity each year. Thanks for a great Saturday NOLA Caribbean Fest!