By Bryanna Allen
STAFF WRITER | April 08,2015
STAFF WRITER | April 08,2015
At a Tuesday afternoon meeting, the town and ski resort announced they are collaborating with The Williams Agency to bring Vermont’s first Jerk Food Festival to the area this summer. The Vermont Jerk Fest is part of an initiative designed to continue growth of Killington summer events and tourism.
“We’re really excited to have this event coming here,” said Mike Solimano, president of Killington Ski Resort. “Our aim is to keep growing events during the summer months, and it’s gotten to the point where we might soon run out of summer weekends to host events.”
The festival will start Friday, July 31, with an adult Rum and Brew tasting, along with Jamaican-style food from local restaurants. Drinks and food alike will have a Caribbean flair, and local bartenders will have the chance to battle for bragging rights as they stir up creative Caribbean cocktails.
Saturday will be a daylong festival boasting Jamaican-style jerk food, live music from both local and Jamaican bands, activities for kids and stages offering other cultural entertainment.
The whole event will take place in and around K1 Lodge.
Nicola Williams, president of the Williams Agency, has organized dozens of Caribbean-style events over the years, including some in Boston and New York City, attracting thousands of people to each one.
But she has always wanted to bring one to Vermont, and now she has that chance.
“I’ve been to Vermont for vacations with friends and I just fell in love,” she said. “There is a lot about Vermont that reminds me of Jamaica, such as the mountains and the connection between the people and the environment. Also, Vermonters just really love their hot sauce.”
Williams said every time she comes to Vermont, she notices a new hot sauce on shelves and at farmers’ markets.
“That little detail is going to tie in nicely with the festival,” she said, laughing.
There will be a spice lane at the event, showcasing local and international specialty products, including hot sauces.
Williams said people will be familiar with a lot of the food, such as jerk seafood and meats.
Other treats will be new and even a bit unusual, including jerk ice cream and cheesecake.
Cooking demonstrations and competitions will also be a huge part of the festival.
“People in this state, as well as Jamaicans, have a good sense of food and where it comes from,” Williams said. “The festival will include that.”
Williams will use as many local foods, chefs and resources as possible for the event, keeping with the theme.
Another reason Williams was so drawn to Vermont, and Killington specifically, was the passion about sustainability and the preservation of the environment.
Killington Ski Resort officials say they strive for the greatest possible energy efficiency, along with treating the surrounding environment as respectfully as possible. Williams applauds that mentality.
“This event will fit right in with the attitude that Killington has, meaning it will be a zero waste festival,” she said. “I am just completely thrilled to be sharing this event with the town and the resort, we want this to be an event that grows each year.”
Williams said that currently they are estimating a sale of 5,000 tickets for the combined Friday night and Saturday events.
Tickets for the event go on sale April 20.
Sydney Roberts, CEO of Jamaica Awareness, an organization dedicated to preserving and educating people about the Jamaican culture, also is a partner in the festival.
“Jamaica is known for a few different things,” he said. “Reggae music, great athletes and food. This will be mostly a foodie event, but with culture and history tied in.”
On his first visit to Killington to check out the event location, Roberts said the mountains called to him.
The snow, however, did not.
“It was only me second time around snow, and it was not a very pleasant experience for me at first,” he said, laughing at the memory of trudging around the Killington area in the cold.
Despite his initial reaction to the chilly winter weather, Roberts, who is from Jamaica but lives in Miami, said everything else about Vermont and Killington felt right for a festival.
“It felt like a natural place to have the event,” he said.
The words of the Vermont Jerk Fest are Eat, Drink and Be Irie, he explained.
“Irie is a word that describes a feeling,” Roberts said. “That feeling of calmness, of happiness. The combination of the two is what that word means. It’s something you feel in your soul.”
Roberts said that almost everyone can experience and enjoy Jamaican culture, because the Jamaican population has people from all over the world, so everyone can relate to it somehow.
“What I’ve realized over the years is that it doesn’t matter what you look like or where you are from, Jamaican is a feeling you have at your core,” he said, touching his chest. “We’re bringing that experience to Vermont.”