August 7, 2008

With Some Careful Planning, You’Ll Be Able to Hit All Three

By Daniel Neman, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Va.

Aug. 7--It's summer in Richmond, which means one thing: It's festival time.

The town loves to celebrate, and whenever things get sticky and sweaty, the City of Festivals comes to life.

This weekend marks the apogee of the summer festival season, with three separate festivals taking place. With careful planning, and a certain amount of self-restraint around the food tables, you can hit all three.

Carib Fest 2008 brings the life and culture of the islands to where else? -- an island. Brown's Island will be the location for Saturday's daylong festival (noon to 10 p.m.) to honor all things Caribbean.

Residents of 20 nations that call the Caribbean Sea home will be on hand to share information about their countries' culture and attractions, said festival chairperson Beryl Walters-Riley

Jerk chicken is an important feature in any Caribbean festival, and one stand will be devoted to all things coconut. You simply can't have Jamaican food without Pickapeppa sauce. And don't forget sugarcane that has been fermented and distilled, a potent concoction that takes the deceptively innocent name of rum. One section of the Spirits Garden will be given over to its tasting.

And what is a festival without music and dance?

Headlining the music portion of the fifth annual festival is The Mighty Sparrow, the self-proclaimed Calypso King of the World (the title may sound like hyperbole, but the man has recorded at least 47 albums). The ever-popular reggae music, a must for any Caribbean festival, will be performed by EVER-G. The steel drum sound will come from the DC Pan Jammers. And spicy, saucy salsa music will be provided by Son Quatro Salsa Band.

Children won't be forgotten at the festival, with games, storytelling and craft making all available. Art, crafts, gifts and prepared foods will be sold.

There are more than 7,000 islands in all the countries in the Caribbean, just as there are more than 7,000 islands in the single country of the Philippines. So it is fitting that Saturday will also be the date of another festival.

The 2008 Filipino Festival is from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday at Our Lady of Lourdes church, 8200 Woodman Road. The third annual festival brings the best of the Philippines to Richmond, with music, dance, crafts and the always-important food.

Adobo is more or less the national dish of the Philippines, meat that has been simmered in a flavorful sauce including spices and chicken. The festival will offer it in both pork and chicken. Certain to be a big seller is pancit, a quick stir-fry of rice noodles, chicken, Chinese cabbage, scallions and more. Also available will be barbecued pork on a stick, barbecued beef on a stick and an entire stuffed and roasted pig called a lechon.

Dessert is a must for any meal. In the Philippines, that could mean a coconut custard called a maja blanca, a creme caramel called a leche flan or a concoction of candied fruits, crushed ice and evaporated milk called a halo-halo. Drinks will range from a cantaloupe drink to San Miguel beer.

Other beers are available, too, but San Miguel is brewed in the Philippines.

Many of the food items will also be available at a drive-through location, but that will mean missing out on the other fun. Musicians and traditional dancers in colorful costumes will perform on a stage, with the musical part of the program featuring the Blend band, Nobelwith Eric Macalma and Rye & Rue. And tents will hold an assortment of vendors, craftspeople and games for children.

On Sunday, one of the most established festivals of all returns. The Carytown Watermelon Festival turns 25 this year, a quarter-century of commerce, music and the fruit known to botanists as Citrullus lanatus.

From 10 a.m.-6 p.m., nearly the entire length of Carytown -- from Nansemond Street to Colonial Avenue -- will be crowded with hungry shoppers and sale-seeking diners.

The festival, which legendarily takes place on the hottest day of the year, began as a way to drum up business for the Carytown merchants during the slow month of August. The woman whose idea it was to hold a sidewalk sale decided to hand out slices of watermelon, and a Richmond tradition was born.

Most of the 300 Carytown stores and restaurants will be open for the event, with additional vendors on the street. This year, more of the vendors will be from Richmond and Virginia, said Mike Murphy of Three One One Productions.

A hundred musical acts will perform at eight locations, along with a few nonmusical surprises such as a kung fu demonstration and a watermelon fashion show.

All the usual Richmond-festival foodstuffs will be available -- funnel cakes, lemonade, souvlaki, ice cream -- along with plenty of watermelon available at five different booths. The watermelon still costs $1 a slice at booths manned by the Shriners, with proceeds going to Shriners Hospitals for Children.

This year, the organizers are hoping to avoid one problem that afflicted the festival last year.

"We've ordered more watermelon," Murphy said. "Our goal is to not run out of watermelon this year. We'll go through over 2,000 watermelons on Sunday," Murphy said.

Contact Daniel Neman at (804) 649-6408 or [email protected]


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