Karen Sudu, Gleaner Writer
LINSTEAD, St Catherine:
In 2005, the Linstead Development Area Committee (LDAC) took ackee from the Linstead Market, to Dinthill Technical High School, to showcase the usefulness of the fruit.
Among other things, the Linstead Ackee Festival and Show, the brainchild of cultural icon Ivy Hinn, aimed to improve and encourage the economic development in the 13 communities, which comprise the Linstead development area, through the usage of the fruit.
It was Ansell White who chaired the committee that hosted the first staging of the festival.
"The Ackee Festival was promoted with the idea of showcasing the cultural aspect and, at the same time, making ackee a viable economic crop not only for Linstead and its environs, but for the entire island. Ackee has a versatility that is unknown to many, and needs much showcasing," the retired headmaster explained to The Gleaner.
So it became an annual event.
However, several patrons left the fifth staging at Marsingh Gardens in Linstead on Heroes Day, October 20, 2009, with mixed feelings. They expressed disappointment with the limited variety of the fruit.
One year later, the festival was brought back to its original home. However, it was held on December 27, with the hope of attracting more patrons.
Yet, like a number of other supporters, Cherton DaCosta, social development officer at the National Housing Trust, who journeyed from Spanish Town with his family and friends to the event, felt they were short-changed.
"I was expecting a greater variety of products. I was expecting to see more of the ackee products, but it is a good concept, a good idea. We expect the organisers to put more into it to draw people out, but it is really a good concept," he told The Gleaner.
Although he was disappointed with the almost non-existence of ackee dishes, he spoke highly of a recipe book titled Carry Mi Ackee Go A Linstead Market: Eat Jamaican, penned by the winner of the Ackee Festival Competition in 2005.
"There is a book by Janeen McNish that is very good, that is the sort of thing that we would like to see. I know people are appreciative of that book on how to prepare ackee in different ways," noted DaCosta, as he viewed the exhibits at the Glengoffe Community Development Committee Benevolent Society's booth, one of the community-based organisations that showcased their products.
Ackee and pork a hit
While DaCosta found no favour with the little 'ackee' menu available, members of the Rosemount netball team were singing a different song.
"Mi buy ackee and pork, and dem give mi three piece a roast breadfruit, and little bit a ackee. It taste nice still, but mi belly nuh full," one member joked.
As it turned out, with very little to choose from, ackee and pork appeared to be the most popular dish at the 2010 festival.
Some repeat attendees enquired about ackee punch and ackee pudding, which the organisers say will undoubtedly be available at next year's staging.
However, others, like Clarence Moore of Deeside, Linstead, found satisfaction in something other than the food.
"I had ackee and salt fish and festival, but what I really enjoy is the stage show, the entertainment, it was really good," he told The Gleaner.
The entertainment package featured several artistes, including Lamoy 'Pastor Reggae' Brown and Khago. The Pineapple Lane Cultural Group from Bog Walk had members of the audience on the edge of their seats, with their roots skit titled Mix Up and Blenda.
But there was no mix-up when the MC announced that Stacey-Ann Burke, Miss August Town, was the winner of the first staging of Miss Linstead Ackee Festival Queen contest. Andrea Kelly, representing Sunnyside, was crowned first runner-up, while Suzette Granville, wearing the sash Miss Commodore, placed third.
McWayne Flowers - Mr Cheesefield - was crowned Ackee Festival King 2010, while Odane Thompson - Mr Linstead - was runner-up.
In a reflective mood, Roojae Kirlew, chairman of the LDAC, said communities must unite to enable a fruitful staging of future festivals.
"I think more communities need to come on board. We have visited communities, we have visited community development committees, but I don't think a lot of persons are buying into the whole community development, the importance of community-based organisations, and we will continue to do some work in that area, encouraging members to be more active," Kirlew told The Gleaner.
Nevertheless, Balvin McKenzie, Social Development Commission field supervisor for Linstead, was quite upbeat.
"A number of persons verbally stated their commitment to be a part of next year's festival. Persons have started to request booth space as the event is growing and attracting persons from a wide cross section of the parish. The festival continues to impact positively on the Linstead community, as it provides an avenue for exposure of local talents and culinary skills," noted McKenzie.
However, White has big dreams for the event which showcases the fruit that has brought popularity to the Linstead Market.
"My vision for future events would be to see all stakeholders, who are interested in the overall development of their communities, make a concerted effort to stage the event with the cooperation of Government and the NGOs. This, I am sure, would bring the entire Jamaica to recognise the importance of the festival and its cultural and economic benefits for Jamaica," said White.