Grace International Jerk Food and Music Festival (JerkFest ) is a three-day celebration of jerk festival held at Centennial Park in Etobicoke. Started back in 2002, the event features great food, music and family fun, bringing the vibe of the Caribbean to Toronto.

Jerk is a special way of preserving, preparing and cooking meat. It dates back to the Arawak Indians on Jamaica who used allspice, aka Jamaican pimento, to season and smoke meat. Scotch bonnet pepper is the other key ingredient. The result is a mouthwatering pork, chicken or seafood. Recipes were passed through generations, some using other herbs and spices like thyme, scallion, cinnamon, garlic, and nutmeg.
Meat is seasoned with the rub and left overnight to marinate. Later it is grilled slowly over a pimento wood fire. The end result is fantastic.

Walking through the festival, there were so many places that tempted us to try their jerk. There were vendors with jerk lobster rolls, jerk kangaroo, and even jerk alligator; We settled on jerk chicken and jerk pork. Accompanying them were fried plantains and rice. We also had homemade ginger beer which was so delicious and homemade black fruit cake. We couldn’t eat another bite after all this, though the roasted corn was a serious temptation.

This year’s music headliners were superstars Brian McKnight, Freddie Jackson and Maxi Priest. Also appearing on the main stage were Pinchers, Mighty Mystics, and Ikaya. There was a variety of musical styles on stage like Sure- D and Level Exodus (soca), Pan Fantasy (steel pan) Capture De Band (reggae and r&b) and DJ Mix, DJ de Unstoppable Jnr, DJ Mark and DJ Julzz Grandeur. There was a DJ Mix off with DJ Julzz Grandeur vs. DJ Twinz Alyke. The Jerkfest Youth Talent semi-finals and finals took place with 6 acts performing one song each.

There were lots of activities to enjoy during Jerkfest. There were fun competitions like The Grace Hot & Spicy Jerk Chicken Eating Competition, The Grace So You Think You Can Jerk Competition and the Drop-A-Six Domino Challenge.

Chef La- Toya Fagon did a live cooking demonstration at the Grace Foods Experience Tent.

There were dance performances by Madd Skillz Dancers, Dance Caribe, Spice Island Dancers, Satya Chutney Dancers, D’Lyfe Dancers, and Youth Afro (who danced and drummed).
For the kids, there was a play area complete with a bouncy castle.
Several vendors were selling brightly coloured clothes, perfect for a summer day.

It was a quite a fun time at Grace JerkFest 2017 and made Toronto seem this much closer to the Islands.

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