With its low self-esteem and high urban blight, Hartford is the ultimate underdog city. Sad City Hartford documents the joys, sorrows and eccentricities of New England's Rising Star.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Reggae In The Park

Seems like it's been Caribbean week in Hartford. Last weekend we visited the Caribbean Festival on the Riverfront and this weekend was the West Indies parade and reggae in the park. Who knew there was so much reggae music? We were always under the impression that reggae was kind of like a Nine Inch Nails and industrial rock situation; Bob Marley and no one else. Apparently that's not the case.

As is our norm, we avoided the parade. Why would we want to stand on the sidewalk for a couple hours to watch people march by? We've never quite figured out the appeal of this bizarre custom, but they seem popular enough that they won't be going anywhere anytime soon.

We did stop by the park for the reggae. First stop was the crowded food area. We were able to watch one vendor cook chicken on a large grill, adding Heineken and chopping the chicken jerk style with a large cleaver and quick decisive chops. All of the jerk vendors had long lines, some up to thirty people. We settled on a medium length line and a plate of jerk pork, rice, and fried plantain. A good meal, but at $12 (with a water) a little on the pricey side for street food.

After enjoying the meal, it was off to check out the vending area. Vendors were peddling t-shirts similar to what we had seen at the Caribbean Festival, lots of Jamaican flags, Bob Marley and Usain Bolt. Other booths sold a variety of items such as hats, bracelets, wristbands, and flags sporting the colors and flag patterns of other islands. A few booth sold bright dressers and jewelry. Of course there were the vendors that show up at every event hawking cruises, back remedies, magic elixers, junky kids toys and other dubious wares.

We had our cultural moment when we tried a guinep, a curious looking fruit we saw being sold at a couple of booths. Looking like a lime cherry, one breaks the skin with their teeth and then pops the insides into their mouth and sucks the fruit off the seed. Once the initial shock of the gooey, almost gummy consistency wore off, the guinep was actually very good. Experience points go up.

Finally we checked out the music. For the majority of the time we watched, we saw a colorful performance group from Trinidad & Tobago, whose performers wore large feather based costumes. One would be hard pressed not to enjoy the brightly colored and outrageous costumes sported by the group.

This was one of the better events in the park we've attended. Reggae in the park attracted a large crowd, had lots of bright colors and costumes, good music and great food. We were so impressed we purchased a wig of dreadlocks and will be sporting our new look around town all week. One love.

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