Yet another annual event cancelled due to COVID-19 that has ravaged the world, with the United States leading with over 101,000 coronavirus deaths.

The Philadelphia Caribbean Festival,, which has become a grand tradition for Caribbean Americans in the tri-state area and beyond, will not be held this year at the Great Plaza at Penn’s Landing.

This would have been the 34th year of celebrating Caribbean cultures through music, dance, food and fun.

The Caribbean Festival Committee comprises dedicated individuals who have worked tirelessly each year, under the leadership of Barbara Wilson, to ensure that the event has something for everyone who attends the festivities.

What a big disappointment for everyone, from members of the festival committee to the thousands of attendees who look forward to the third Sunday in August, which is when the festival has taken place for decades.

Not only is the committee saddened by the cancellation of the event, but it is even more disappointed because the monies raised to fund numerous scholarships for students of Caribbean descent may not be available.

The festival has always been representative of all the Caribbean islands. It is one of the biggest multi-cultural events in Philadelphia. The perennial theme is simply: “All ah we ah one.” Year after year this theme is demonstrated throughout the day as people from all cultural backgrounds rock to Caribbean music, enjoy Caribbean foods and visit vendors.

Yes, eating and dancing are a huge part of the festival, but for so many it has become a place to reunite with friends. This is an opportunity to meet new people and to teach Caribbean offspring about their roots.

“Capfest is going to miss the interaction with the volunteers, performers, the children and big crowd of supporters who usually come out to the festival,” said Barbara Wilson, president of the Caribbean Festival Committee of Philadelphia. “Our volunteers have always worked together with a great deal of enthusiasm and good vibes. Because of this, it is always a success, whether rain or shine.”

Wilson said that The Philadelphia Cultural Fund, one of the entities that makes the scholarships possible, is up for budgeting and with the coronavirus pandemic situation, the funds awarded to the Capfest might be cut back or cut totally.

“We are asking the public to advocate for the Philadelphia Cultural Fund in the FY2021 budget, by writing or calling the Philadelphia Council representatives in their regions to reconsider these critical budget decisions and restore PCF,” said Wilson. “We’ve got to get it done for Capfest 2021.”

“I’m truly sadden that we will not have the festival, however, out of an abundance of caution and true care for our fellow citizens and recognizing that ‘All ah we ah one’ there’s no other option than to abide by the law of common sense and cancel this year’s festival,” said Vincent Heath.

“I will miss everything about preparing for the festival: long hours of planning, setting site logistics, ordering goods and service, communicating with government agencies, travel agencies, entertainment groups, and artists. One would wonder why I would miss the hectic process of being one of the organizers but I definitely will,” he added.

Heath says it best when he notes that the Caribbean Festival has served as a carnival that brings every ethnic group together in a one-love style.

“I’ll miss this year’s festival,” he said. “However, I must advise everyone to stay safe, stay healthy and get ready. God willing, we will jump and prance at the next year’s festival.

“I will definitely miss the coming together of all people and the smell of food that reminds me of Jamaica and my youth,” said Michelle Neil, a longtime volunteer. “From a financial perspective, it will definitely hurt the food truck businesses. Regarding the attendees, they will feel like something is missing, and I will miss those folks who I only see once a year at the festival.

“Nevertheless, we all have to stay the course, be safe and be patient,” she said. “Caribbean Festival will be back bigger and better in 2021.”

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author. They are not necessarily intended to reflect the views of the Philadelphia Tribune.

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