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CALGARY HEATS THINGS UP, ISLAND STYLE

Author: Mhairri Woodhall

Born in Hong Kong and raised in Vancouver, Mhairri now lives in Calgary with her husband and daughter. Specializing in family, luxury and culinary focused travel, Mhairri loves exploring her new province, nourishing her wanderlust and writing about her adventures.

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A whirl of fuchsia, tangerine, lime, indigo and chartreuse spins on stage. Dancers dazzle in ornate costumes and towering feather headdresses. Standing in the audience, our bodies naturally try to keep in rhythm with the beat of the steel drums. When the feverish tempo can no longer be maintained we simply stand motionless and watch the flurry of feathers and colourful silk flags.

Of course there are some who continue to dance freely with no concern for technique. My three-year-old daughter is one of them. It seems that she has found her inner Rasta at Carifest, Calgary’s Sunshine Fest. She continues to twirl, jump and giggle, while my husband and I take a break on our picnic blanket that’s draped on the grassy slope at Shaw Millennium Park.

Tantalizing Island Cuisine

You see, we’re not just here for the reggae, soca and calypso. Food is celebrated with equal enthusiasm at the festival. A variety of ethnicities influence Caribbean cuisine. Indian, Chinese, Spanish, French, English and African flavours. Cooking techniques can be found in the wide variety of Caribbean dishes, which differ from island to island: jerk chicken, curried goat, rice and peas, Jamaican patties, stuffed roti, plantain chips – and chutney slathered on pretty much everything. It’s always difficult to decide where to start and when to finish. I love hot and spicy, but if there’s a raw coconut on offer you can bet I’ll be gulping one down to put the fire out.

A Month to Celebrate

Last weekend ReggaeFest was held in the park. It’s a family friendly event during the day complete with kids’ games, crafts, face painting and even story time. But we left the kiddo at home for this one and headed down for the evening concerts to dance island style on the grass. We even hit up the after party and somehow made it home before sunrise.

Next year we’ll check out Calgary’s Afrikadey World Music Festival. The week-long celebration of African culture includes music, dance, theatre, visual arts and literature. Oh, and of course food. Glorious, delicious food. Events are held at venues throughout the city, with a grand finale on the last day at Prince’s Island Park.

With all three of these amazing cultural festivals taking place in August, we may be hard pushed to make Edmonton’s famous Cariwest Festival at the beginning of the month. The three-day event welcomes more than 60,000 people, so it’s definitely one of the biggest Caribbean parties around. It kicks off with a colourful Grand Costume Parade with floats, dancers and island music. I can almost hear the steelpan bands jamming and those delicious Jamaican patties calling my name.

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