A Caribbean dancer interacts with the audience during a performance. Credit: Courtesy of Karl Francis

A stretch of the Scioto Mile downtown was converted into a tour of the Caribbean islands last weekend, where visitors could experience the smells, sounds and sights of the Caribbean.

The second annual Columbus Caribbean Festival, a three-day event, offered a chance for Columbus residents to experience and learn more about the culture and heritage of the islands through food, performances and shopping.

“It’s celebrating the culture and heritage of Caribbean islands right here in Columbus,” said Trish Drake, one of the event producers. “The Caribbean islands are a top vacation spot, so now people can celebrate here in Ohio.”

Festival attendees shopped at a variety of vendor stands and food trucks during the festival. Vendors sold items such as Caribbean-made clothing and artisan goods, flags and jewelry. Food trucks also supplied a taste of the Caribbean with jerk chicken, tropical fruit smoothies, Haitian food and more.

Clive Donovan, a first-time vendor selling items branded with the flags of Caribbean countries, said he was excited to be part of the growing Columbus Caribbean Festival.

“We do Caribbean fests [at] a lot of places, and we heard this one is getting started,” Donovan said. “So we decided we’d come check it out, be a part and see if we can make it grow to be as big as some of the other ones around the country.”

Each night of the festival was filled with cultural entertainment and performances. On Friday, there was a Bob Marley tribute concert featuring The Ark Band. Saturday was a carnival experience day, with carnival dance group Socalistas Worldwide performing throughout the day.

A family fun day wrapped up the festival on Sunday with a kid’s conga line. Other performers throughout the weekend included All Star Jammerz, The Flex Crew and Sunshade.

First-time attendees Jaret Waters and Erica Carlson said they enjoyed having the opportunity to experience and learn about Caribbean culture through visiting the festival.

“We really enjoy the music,” Waters said. “We haven’t tried any food yet, but it smells absolutely amazing. And the weather is perfect and almost feels like we are in the Caribbean.”

The Columbus Caribbean Festival started in 2017 after event producers Celebrity Style Events and Abba Music Group noticed that among the different cultural events and festivals occurring in central Ohio, there wasn’t one celebrating Caribbean culture.

“A lot of times you would see the carnivals that are in Miami, California and Toronto, so we just wanted to bring a taste of the Caribbean to Columbus,” Drake said.