Countryside marks a year since reopening
Ernie Smith performs tonight as part of celebrations
Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
Strictly speaking, it has been a bit over a year since Countryside reopened, as the first event was on Friday, November 22. However, Marcia Lawrence notes that a number of events have been taking place at the Courtney Walsh Drive, Half-Way Tree, St Andrew venue this week and a decision was taken to include their own celebration on the roster.
"We thought, let's embrace this week, as it is so much easier - people are already in that mode," Lawrence said.
So tonight, Ernie Smith, famed for songs such as Pitta Patta, Life Is Just for Living and Duppy Gunman, will be performing for an audience which regularly reaches 300 to 600 persons to make what Lawrence says is Countryside's consistently biggest night.
It is named Street Vibes Friday, and Lisa's Seafood as well as Ginjoe's (which does ice-cream and hot and cold coffee beverages), Sweet Moments (pastry), Ah Di Soup Dis (soup), Jerky Jerky (jerked dishes) and on-location restaurant Shea's are all on spot.
That apart, there have been some notable events at Countryside this week, beginning with the taping of RETV Unplugged on Monday night, the beginning of Kingston Music Week 2014. Among the featured performers were Duane Stephenson and Voicemail. Then on Wednesday night, Red Stripe Live was on, the brand making its presence felt through not only its branding, but also putting on a band. Added to this, No-Maddz was on the stand.
Lawrence said Countryside had already been a partner with Red Stripe in its Beer Wednesdays promotion. "It was really something, and we had a good crowd. We had beer specials and sampling of the new sorrel beer," Lawrence said. Adding to the regular Wednesday night experience is food from Lisa's, Jerky Jerky and Shea's at Countryside.
To cap it all off, on Sunday, JAVAA's Music Festival will be held at Countryside to close off Kingston Music Week 2014.
Countryside is already steeped in music, as it is the base of Hummingbird Steel Band and Strings and Steel, but since being reopened, the venue has hosted a number of music-related events, including the launch of Rebel Salute 2014 and Hezron's album launch. However, the events have been diverse, Lawrence saying there was an Air Jamaica reunion there.
"We have been blessed with some nice events," Lawrence said. "We were closed for 15 years. Some people are not even aware yet that we have reopened." In addition, Lawrence said, "Because we moved the entrance (from Eastwood Park Road) there are people who have driven past many times."
"We moved the gate mainly because of security and traffic congestion reasons. We are trying to keep it so that people can feel comfortable although they are in Half-Way Tree. It is a real oasis in the city," Lawrence said, noting that work is always being done on the grounds to provide a relaxed atmosphere.
Lawrence also said, "We have had may tour operators, courtesy of the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB). We are positioning ourselves to become like an attraction, so people who are visiting the island coming into Kingston come to dine and we have a performance by one of the bands. We are positioning ourselves to embrace that opportunity."
The regular clientele will not be excluded, as Lawrence said the intention is also to position Countryside as a place where motorists stop for a little while and relax while the worst of the evening traffic trickles away.