It’s about more than soft tropical breezes and warm island vibes.

Organizers of the third annual Caribbean American Heritage Month Celebration are looking to create much more diverse associations with Caribbean culture.

“It’s the concept of Caribbean heritage — what it means,” Omar Berry said. “The food, the music, go with it. But they are only a part of it. We are bringing our cultural heritage to the people here, and we want to see it continue on through the kids who come.”

Berry is president of Caribbean Jerk and Cultural Festival, Inc. The organization puts on two events a year, including the Caribbean American Heritage Month Celebration, which is scheduled for 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. June 23, at North Charlotte Regional Park in Port Charlotte. Charlotte County Community Services is a co-sponsor. The Caribbean group’s other festival is in the fall.

“This is a growing area, a diverse area,” said Sonia Owens, event coordinator. “There’s more than just Jamaica here. People think the islands are just Jamaica. It’s not just Jamaica. It’s Cuba. It’s the Dominican Republic. It’s Puerto Rico. It’s them too. It’s us working together. We’re hoping to build momentum.”

The June 23 event, which is free, doesn’t skimp when it comes to island flavor. John Patti of Cape Coral will be there to play the steel drums. Impulse, a reggae band out of Tampa, is scheduled to perform from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. There will be a health and wellness pavilion, a kids section, cultural dances, and, of course, Caribbean food.

The event drew about 75 people in its first year,” Owens said. “We had about six kids. Last year, we ended up having over 350 people.”

The goal this year is 500, she said.

So far, what visitors have enjoyed most, she said, was the music, a form of human connection in itself. “They love the steel drums. They love the limbo,” Owens laughed.

The celebration had to be moved this year to North Charlotte Regional Park from the Charlotte Harbor beach area because the beach facility is undergoing construction.

“We don’t have that backdrop of the actual beach,” Owens said. “We’re going to have to create that feel through the smells and sounds and the way we lay it out. We want people out there enjoying themselves.

“At the end of the day, you find that connection.”


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