New Destination for Foodies and Reggae Lovers
As Jamaica’s two most recognized cities, it stands to reason that Kingston and Montego Bay have the crux of the Jamaican Independence Festival events on the island. But that looks to be changing – at least if the Ocho Rios Seafood Festival has something to say or sing about it.
Celebrating its 11th anniversary, the Ocho Rios festival combines Jamaica’s long history of musical excellence with its growing recognition as a destination of food tourism.
Scheduled on Emancipation Day in Jamaica at the height of the country’s Jamaican Independence Festival on August 1, the event is now one of the country’s best-known food festivals.
One Festival’s Loss is Another’s Gain
This year, the fact that one of the Jamaican Independence Festival’s main events – the popular song competition which featured none other than Bob Marley and Toots and the Maytals in its storied history – will not be held countrywide is actually a boon to the Ocho Rios event.
The absence of what has become a mainstay of the island’s musical history is being neatly filled by a robust lineup of musicians during the Ocho Rios event, headlined by several former song competition winners.
Tinga Stewart (1974, 1981), Eric Donaldson (1977, 1978, 1984, 1993, 1995, 1997), and 2010 winner Kharusso are all scheduled to grace the stage during the festival, which will be held at Turtle River Park in the heart of Ocho Rios and less than a 10-minute walk from Moon Palace Jamaica.
“If you are feeling nostalgic and saddened that there is no competition this year, don’t worry, as we have the remedy, “ said Mortimer Martin, a festival spokesman, to the Jamaica Gleaner.
Other musical acts include Ocho Rios native and Sean Kingston protégé Pappy V, Kevin Downsell, Sandra Brooks, D’Angel, and more.
Festival Feast for Foodies
If the beats coming from Ocho Rios aren’t enough to lure the casual visitor to the resort town, then the aromas emanating from the festival will likely do the trick. The seafood festival is one of a growing list of food festivals being held in Jamaica as the country makes its mark as a global destination for the culinary arts.
It also provides something Ocho Rios has not had in the past – a major entertainment event on a countrywide scale. “Now, it's our turn to brag as, in the Ocho Rios Seafood Festival, we now have a signature event that can hold its own against any food festival in this country,” said Garwin Davis, CEO and Founder of the festival.
As one of the country’s premier resort destinations, Ocho Rios serves as a natural location to bring both domestically and internationally recognized chefs together to the delight of palates across the world.
The island is increasingly focusing its marketing efforts on food tourism and points to the Ocho Rios Seafood Festival as a signature event on the calendar to attract international foodies.
The event is sponsored by the Jamaica Tourist Board, the Ministry of Culture and Entertainment, and the Ministry of Tourism.
“Events like the Ocho Rios Seafood Festival are the perfect fit to draw some (food tourism) business to Jamaica,” said Hon. Edmund Bartlett, the country’s Minister of Tourism.
“The Ocho Rios Seafood Festival can also be used as a template for other culinary events that will assist in broadening (Jamaica’s) gastronomy network.”
While the event serves a greater purpose for the island itself, visitors will delight as they are served a variety of dishes prepared by renowned chefs featuring fresh fish, shrimp, crab, eel, scallops, octopus, and other seafood delights.
As well as the food and music, the event will feature a variety of rides and is billed as a family-friendly event both for locals and families visiting Ocho Rios and the North Coast of Jamaica.