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Islands in the city; Reggae, calypso, bright colors and spicy fare bring Caribbean to life.

Byline: Thomas Caywood

WORCESTER -- The city dropped its normally staid New England countenance for a few sunny hours on Sunday afternoon and shook its hips in an uproar of canary yellow, jade, orange and purple feathers and sequins.

The inaugural Worcester Caribbean Carnival got off to a rousing and racy start with a small parade of exotically costumed dancers shimmying and gyrating their way down Park Avenue to an exuberant Island beat blaring from a truck packed with powerful speakers.

The colorful procession danced its way from Foley Stadium on Chandler Street to Institute Park, where a crowd gathered to enjoy reggae and calypso music, and spicy Island fare ranging from jerk chicken to curry goat.

The dancers, upbeat music and smell of jerk chicken and pork on the grill were enough to fool Junior Troder, a native of the Virgin Islands who now lives in Worcester.

"I feel like I'm in the islands now. Most definitely,'' he said.

Sam Tatum of Worcester doesn't have any personal connection to the Caribbean, but he grabbed a straw hat, a cigar and his brother, Spencer, and headed to the park to enjoy the fun just the same.

"This is a great thing. The music, the food, the sights,'' Mr. Tatum said.

Steven Jones, the owner and chef at Worcester's Belmont Vegetarian restaurant, found a shady spot near the stage to enjoy the festival with his friends.

Originally from Jamaica, Mr. Jones said he was gratified to see people from all over enjoying the Island culture he grew up with.

"This is a piece of the whole Caribbean. The music reminds me of back home. The food and friends,'' Mr. Jones said. "We always do things like this. This is just like what you'd see back home. It's great to see so many people here enjoying this.''

Mr. Jones said he hopes the Worcester Caribbean Carnival Association will make it an annual event.

The association's president, Jennifer J. Gaskin, said she noticed after moving to Worcester from Boston a few years ago that the city had a vibrant and growing Caribbean community, but, oddly, no Caribbean festival like the ones in Boston and Cambridge and many other cities.

She and fellow carnival organizers set about to change that.

Judging from the big turnout and acres of smiles at Institute Park for the inaugural Caribbean Carnival, Worcester enjoyed its chance to shake its hips Island style and will be back for more.

Contact reporter Thomas Caywood at tcaywood@telegram.com or follow on Twitter @CaywoodTG
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Title Annotation:Local
Author:Caywood, Thomas
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Aug 26, 2013
Words:421
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