Philly Caribbean Festival brings the flavor and sound of island life to Penn’s Landing for a day

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — This year, many outdoor festivals have found their way back after COVID-19 put a stopper on large-scale events for the last two years. The annual Philly Caribbean Festival came back to Penn’s Landing on Sunday for its 36th year.

The event was such a feast for the senses, says organizer Vincent Heath, that if people were to stop and close their eyes, they would feel for a moment like they are on a Caribbean island.

“You can go on vacation here at Penn’s Landing at the Caribbean Festival,” Heath said. “It's on the waterfront. You cannot beat the waterfront, the Caribbean music and the smell of our sweet jerk seasoning all over the place.”

Along with culinary delights, the festival featured art and live music — reggae, roots international beat, hip-hop, gospel and the pulsating sound of the steel band. Sunday also featured poetry, skits and dance performances.

Original banner from the first Philly Caribbean Festival in 1991
Original banner from the first Philly Caribbean Festival in 1991 Photo credit Caribbean Festival Commmittee

And for anyone thinking of planning an island getaway, festival organizers have it covered.

“If you want to go fly fishing in the Bahamas, there’s someone to tell you about it. If you want to play golf in Jamaica, you can get information about it,” Heath said. “While we’re having fun, we’re educating the public.”

A vendor from the 34th Philly Caribbean Festival
A vendor from the 34th Philly Caribbean Festival Photo credit Caribbean Festival Committee

The goal of the festival is to showcase the culture of the Caribbean islands — it represents just about all of them — and what they have to offer in Greater Philadelphia. The Caribbean Festival Committee, which presents the festival each year, also works to bring attention to the historic contributions people of the Caribbean have made to the world.

“Trinidad and Tobago, Bermuda, Barbados, St. Kitts and Nevis, Jamaica, Antigua — the list goes on and on. There’s over 13 different islands that are members of the Caribbean Festival Committee,” Heath said.

Beyond its cultural functions, the committee also offers the Philly Caribbean Festival Student Scholarship.

“That’s one of our main goals for this festival,” Heath said. “We give approximately five scholarships a year, and we’ve been doing it for the last 34 years.”

The Caribbean Festival Committee is part of the social and cultural committee of the Caribbean/American Association of Pennsylvania, Inc.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Caribbean Festival Committee