At the end of June, New Orleans will become an international hotspot.
On June 24th and 25th, organizers will host the 4th Annual NOLA Caribbean Festival. The annual festival celebrates New Orleans and its Caribbean influences through its eclectic mix of food, music, and culture. The outdoor event, which has capacity for 4,000 people, will be held at Central City BBQ, located at 1201 South Rampart Street. Admission to the event starts at $10 per person and $5 per child. Anyone with a full carnival costume will get 50 percent off admission at the door.
This year the two-day festival will have several international Caribbean art and food vendors. For the first time in its four years of existence, there will be a kid’s corner that will service drum lessons, a bounce house, arts and craft, and face painting.
For the adults, there will be a Dancehall Queen competition and a Salsa tent.
The festival also sports an international line up of musical artists. This year there will be performances by Etana, I-Majesty, T-Rock, Alexy Marti, Da’Range, and several others. Over eight countries will be represented this year.
For a full list of the international line-up, visit the NOLA Caribbean Festival’s official website.
The idea of the NOLA Caribbean Festival stemmed from duo Joel Hitchcock Tilton and Jimmy Seely, as the two played Reggae-and Caribbean-based music at clubs and shows throughout New Orleans. Around five years ago, the two landed a permanent monthly gig DJing Reggae-and Caribbean-based music at The Freret Street Publiq House.
During their time at the venue, the duo had the opportunity to partner with several other reggae artists, which Hitchcock Tilton called “the perfect storm that came together.” Soon, the duo recognized that they had enough performers for a small music festival. In 2013, the duo partnered with several reggae bands and DJs to create the first NOLA Caribbean Festival held at the Freret Street Publiq House.
“We wanted to showcase the culinary, architecture, dance, and musical history right here in New Orleans,” Hitchcock Tilton said.
The festival grew to showcase a mix of Caribbean arts, crafts, and music, and extended its artists and performers to Cuba, Jamaica, Trinidad, and Fiji.
New Orleans and the Caribbean
During the first two years, the NOLA Caribbean Festival was held at the Freret Street Publiq house until the venue closed its doors in 2016. For its 3rd Annual year, the festival temporarily moved to Roux Carre’ on Oretha Castle Haley. This year, the festival found a permanent home at Crescent City BBQ, located on 1201 South Rampart Street.
At Central City BBQ, the NOLA Caribbean Festival has capacity for up to 4,000 attendees. Last year, the festival was sold out at 1,000 people due to venue limitations. In its second year, over 2,500 people attended the festival.
Hitchcock Tilton said the event is steadily growing from a boutique neighborhood festival to a cultural landmark.
“A lot of people feel like this is long overdue. New Orleans is so similar to the Caribbean with its food, music and messed up streets. The City has a feel similar so Savanah (Cuba) or Kingston (Jamaica). It’s definitely an honor and pleasure to be a part of this,” Hitchcock Tilton said.
While passed its Freshman year, Hitchcock Tilton sees the 4th Annual Festival as a reboot.
“A lot of way we’re looking at this as the first year. It’s the first year where the festival has a permanent home. There is a permanent outdoor stage, professional sound system, drum lessons, and a kid’s corner. We’re definitely stepping it up.”
Jerk Chicken Festival
The NOLA Caribbean Festival organizers also held the Jerk Chicken Festival, which took place during Mardi Gras 2017. The festival, which lands near Bob Marley’s Birthday, celebrates the common ground between Jamaican and New Orleans culture—along with Bob Marley’s legacy.