John Liberty | firstname.lastname@example.org
I am an entertainment reporter for the Kalamazoo Gazette and MLive Media Group.
Zip Code: 49006
KALAMAZOO, MI — As a girl, Emily Deering remembers eating jerk chicken from a road-side cart and lobster diving late at night during family vacations in Negril, Jamaica.
More than a decade since making those memories, Emily Deering and her father Wayne are sharing some of their appreciation for the Jamaican culture with Kalamazoo. The 18th annual Kalamazoo Island Festival will be held June 20-22at the Arcadia Creek Festival Place. Emily and Wayne Deering, along with Paul Toth, are coordinating the event. It's Emily Deering's first year helping on the operational end of the festival.
Kendra Blackman, of Kalamazoo, smiles while dancing to the sounds of a Tribute to Doggie Ranks featuring Indika Reggae Band during the 14th annual Island Festival at Arcadia Creek Festival Place.
“Island Fest is our way of bringing that culture and those amazing island roots to the people here. It’s such a beautiful island and a beautiful people," the 21-year-old Emily Deering said.
The Deering family visited Jamaica four or five times starting about a decade ago. Now that his three daughters — ages 18 to 29 — are older, it's more difficult for the family to find time to return. But the memories aged well.
Wayne Deering said an island guide would take his children for snorkeling trips, jet skiing and the late-night lobster dives. Armed with a flashlight and a spear, they'd dive into the water in search of lobsters. After catching a few, they'd bring the lobsters to the Deering's room for a unique taste of Jamaica.
"Not only was it so good and fresh, he just cooked it simply. I think he just had butter, onion" and pepper, Wayne Deering said.
The three-day festival, expected to draw around 30,000 people, will feature reggae music, Caribbean cuisine and drinks and many vendors. The festival's history with Jamaica extends beyond the Deering family. Paul Toth, who books the musical acts for Island Fest, also hosted the popular Reggae Night at the old Kalamazoo venue, Club Soda, in the 1980s and early '90s. Those nights eventually formed the connections to provide the caliber of music for Island Fest, Deering said.
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