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International Park hosts Caribbean Festival this weekend

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

The Caribbean Association of Georgia will treat the Southern Crescent community to Caribbean music, food, and culture this weekend, all for only the cost of parking.

The South Metro Caribbean Festival will take place at Clayton County International Park on Saturday, Sept. 5, from noon to 8 p.m. The event will feature more than a dozen musical performances, a "Caribbean Cook-Off," moko jumbie (Caribbean stilt) dancers, and fireworks sponsored by the Clayton County Parks and Recreation Department.

Jackie Watson, a Jamaican native and president of the Caribbean Association of Georgia, said the organization was founded just over a year ago to promote Caribbean culture in the metro-Atlanta area. She said the festival will serve as a valuable educational tool, as well as a way to give back to the community.

"We [in the Caribbean] are a true melting pot," Watson said. "A lot of people aren't aware that we have a lot of people in Jamaica who are Chinese. There are a lot of Indians there, too, and they have been there for decades. One of the ways we are giving back is by having the Caribbean Festival, which is really bringing people together and teaching people in Clayton County more about Caribbean culture."

According to organizers, the day will feature reggae, soca, and Caribbean gospel from a number of artists from around the Southeast, including Miami reggae artist Phil Watkis and gospel performer Maxine Marks. Verna Muthoni, a popular local storyteller, originally from Jamaica, will share folk tales with children.

In addition to performances, there will be sack races and face-painting for children, cricket and soccer exhibitions, free blood pressure and diabetes testing conducted by medical personnel, and information from the U.S. Census Bureau. The Caribbean Association of Georgia will also accept donations of non-perishable food items and new or gently-used books that will be donated to the Clayton County Department of Family and Children Services.

Troy Stubbs, administrator of Clayton County International Park, said the South Metro Caribbean Festival will spread awareness of the Caribbean community that exists in Clayton County. "More than anything, it's different," Stubbs said. "The music will be something that people aren't really used to. We're showing that where we sit in Clayton County, we can offer a different array of music and cultures, because it is already spread out across the county."

Courtney McFarlane, public relations director for the Caribbean Association of Georgia, said the festival will serve as a way to spread good will. "Clayton County and Henry County have seen a large influx of Caribbean immigrants," McFarlane said. "The whole idea behind this is to showcase the Caribbean presence and build a relationship in the community. We are trying to bring awareness to people that we are here, and we want to help the county to grow."

Parking for the event is $3 per car, $6 per van, and $15 per bus. Admission to the event is free. For more information, visit www.caribbeangeorgia.org.