JERK festivals seem to be a hot item -- as far as Jamaican culture is concerned -- in the United States these days.
Several major cities including Atlanta, New York, Fort Lauderdale and Philadelphia have events showcasing spicy productS. Long Beach in southern California has joined the mix.
The Long Beach Reggae Music Jerk and Food Festival is scheduled for September 28. It is the brainchild of singer Freddie McGregor whose Big Ship Music label are promoters.
"I'm very surprised at the sudden interest in the States for Jamaican jerk foods. I headlined the Atlanta jerk fest two weeks ago and we saw over 20,000 people in attendance," he told the Jamaica Observer. "I guess people like family-friendly events."
McGregor said he has been "looking at that market for sometime now" but started planning late last year after Long Beach was confirmed as the show's site.
Like established jerk events in Florida and New York, the Long Beach show is complemented by live music. Roots acts like Johnny Osbourne, U Roy, The Abyssinians, and Admiral Tibet, popular in the Golden State, dominate the line-up.
"I selected the artistes myself because you have to understand the marketplace and cater as such. However, next year we plan to widen the scope of performers, making it more varied," McGregor said.
Long Beach has been a haven for hippies and surfers for decades. It has had a strong reggae base since the 1970s when major artistes like Bob Marley performed there.
Over the years, there have been a number of reggae shows in the area. The most popular was the Bob Marley One Love Festival.
With that event no longer on the calendar, McGregor and his partners thought Long Beach was the perfect place to set up shop.
McGregor -- celebrating his 52nd year in the music business -- first performed in Long Beach in 1983 at California State University.
Doctor Dread's Famous Jamaican Jerk, a Maryland company owned by former RAS Records president Gary Himelfarb, are partners in the Long Beach Reggae Music Jerk and Food Festival.