Ash Wednesday 2020 hosted this years staging of the Rainforest Seafood Festival in Montego Bay, Jamaica at the Catherine Hall Show Grounds.
I have always wanted to go to this festival but for some reason or the other, never got the chance to. For this years staging, things fell into place and I saw it as a opportunity to attend. Let me tell you about my seafood fest adventure!
The Back Story
The tickets for the seafood festival were reasonably priced, but as I am situated in Kingston and the festival was in Mobay, i had decided that maybe, just maybe, I might just let this year miss me… again. The higher power decided “nah girl, you going to this one enuh”. I entered an online competition to “try my luck” and lo and behold, yah girl won a family set of tickets: Two adults and two kids! I attribute my luck to God’s blessings by the way. We may not agree but we also don’t live in a perfect world, don’t? I literally won the tickets on Monday, they were to be collected on either Monday or Tuesday and the festival was on Wednesday! Yikes! Decisions had to be made quickly.
With Knutsford Express being out of budget at the time, and no one available to adventure with me (and drive) at such short notice, this young lady, yes me… boarded a Mobay-bound coaster in the wee hours of Ash Wednesday morning. Again, I believe in the power of prayer, so I was praying incessantly because these coaster bus drivers are not always the most “careful”, but by the end of my journey, I learned that we have driven with one of the safest and most time efficient Mobay coaster drivers. God good e?
I had already mandated that I wanted to go to as many food related festivals this year, so anticipation was already building. As if on cue, the bus arrived in Montego Bay minutes before the start time of the event. I like to adventure in groups, so this solo trip out of town with so many unknowns was really a new for me, to an event that was new to me but to be able to attend, was everything!
As a walk-foot (pedestrian) and seeing two entrances with feather banners, I entered the one where my taxi delivered me to. Only to find out it was the wrong entrance… even though it was an entrance. And then from the parking lot, there was no entry. You literally had to walk all the way around to the main event entrance…across the showgrounds. Security who approached before I entered, kept asking for my entry bands, but couldn’t direct me where to go to get them. I literally walked into the event without being checked or stopped first. Thankfully, I saw a gentleman in a Rainforest shirt who I explained my situation to and he agreed to escort me across the grounds to have my tickets scanned and my bands applied. Also, bands were also for VIP. Regular patrons just has their tickets scanned… womp. I gifted the two children tickets to two random parents who hadn’t already purchased tickets for their kids and the adult ticket went…to an adult.
With all that sorted, I was ready to enjoy the festivities! I walked passed the kiddies village and entered the show grounds.
The first tent would prove to be one of the most fun activity I had at the festival. It was the Instant Replay Booth. Donned with props, I stood in front of a camera that recorded my actions for 20 seconds. It would then replay everything in slow motion. After several attempts, we settled on the one below. Soooo much fun! With glitter confetti being thrown, pink feather boa and a #THUGLIFE glasses, I danced to the songs in my head and laughed with the onlookers who had gathered to see what was happening. They emailed a copy of the vid so I could enjoy post festival and gave me a print out with a few snapshots. Awesome way to make this memorable!
Rainforest was giving away a car and I was hoping and praying that it would be mine to drive home with. That blessing hasn’t come as yet…
I walked pass a few other booths that included an optical store and the Ministry of Health’s Jamaica Moves initiative and headed to National Bakery. In my experience with expos, National always has engaging booths with lots of giveaways, so you know who is all about winning more stuff! And you know who wasn’t disappointed? This girl! (pointing to myself)
Apart from seating and shelter from the brief burst of rain, they had a spin-to-win wheel, a cracker to take pics with and giveaways and deals when products were purchased. And the prices were soooo reasonable! I copped a bun tin from the sin and win, just in time for my easter buns! Every time, National just makes sense.
I moseyed pass a few other stalls who at the time were either still setting up or otherwise preoccupied to attend to the early crowd. I did stop by the Heineken booth though as their set up caught my eye. Pretty don’t? And next to it was the Jamaica Observer booth that also did not disappoint with the aesthetics.
While looking around I started to take note of the places I wanted to get food from, afterall, whats the point of a food festival. And herein lies the problem with food at food festivals. All the foods are full sized meals priced as full sized meals. There’s no way to try them all without racking up a hefty bill and either a large take home bag or overeating. What I suggest instead, is to have smaller sample meals, priced at reasonable prices like $200-$400. That way, the patrons can sample more of all the vendors present and EVERYONE gets a larger reach of customers. Then, if there is something that stood out to a customer, they have the option of buying the full meal.
This was not the case here, so I purchased from my ever ready, ever tasty BadDawg by CB Foods and headed on to check out the rest of the vendors. My only wish was that they had a special topping that was only available at the Rainforest Seafood Festival. Something innovative and appropriate. Maybe a seafood salsa or something you know… to enhance an already perfect meal.
And as I downed the last of the BadDawg, I saw it. The Little Ochi booth and because it has been on my list of places to visit FOREVER, I rushed over to see what they had to offer.
Now these people get it. Minus sample sizes, they get it. Innovation. They had a saltfish fritter… nothing new, just the right amount of crispy, packed with saltfish and available for a price so small, you don’t mind eating a million of it (I didn’t but I could have 😉 ). And they had a corn… THE CORN. The BEST CORN I HAVE EVER HAD. Hands down. It was a jerked corn, marinated in a homemade jerk seasoning made by the chef. Before I left the venue, I had two and brought a 3rd home to have another day. Just writing about it now has me reminiscing on the amazing flavours as you bite into the juicy kernels and the jerk sauce running down your face and fingers. Hmmmm…. can’t picture it? Here’s a picture…
While snacking on the corn, I saw the Necktie JellyMan performing stunts that would send my stomach into a whirlwind if anything didn’t go as planned, so I moved on to see the rest of the grounds.
The main stage was abuzz with the setup for the show later on in the night. I knew I was going to miss that segment, as I had to head back to Kingston before it was too late. I did a few more rounds and after another brief shower of rain, I decided that it was best that I left early.
I was also invited on another adventure that started early the next morning, so leaving earlier would allow me to prepare. In retrospect, and looking on all the fun that ensued at the festival, I wish I had stayed longer, BUUUUUUT the adventures that happened afterwards totally made up for it!
That being said, I have a few tips for anyone who is planning a festival:
- Establish an entrance for the venue and label it. I walked into the venue through a gate without a security guard posted. And if I didn’t reach out to someone, I could’ve enjoyed the festivities without paying an entry fee.
- Cater for your early crowd. People will attend your event early and depending on the duration of the event, might not want to stay the full time allotted. Advise booths should be set up and ready for start time. Entertainment can vary throughout the day, especially if you plan a large show for the end. I felt like there was nothing to do after going around the grounds twice as booths were not ready.
- Provide shelter for when it rains. When the rain started, even at a drizzle, patrons were scurrying to find shelter from the rain. Maybe, at least the eating area could provide that shelter so it encourages them to sit and eat while waiting for the rain to stop.
- Smaller portion sizes and smaller prices. This ensures the patron can sample a wider range of the foods available and are more able to discern the success of the festival on a whole rather than just one or a few vendors. Patrons are more inclined to purchase from who they know rather than trying something new.
Overall, it was a good event for me as a first time visitor to the seafood festival. Now that I’ve tasted a bit of what it has to offer, I will definitely try harder to make it to the other stagings and make the necessary plans now that I have a greater understanding of what happens there. Definitely looking forward to it!