Kalamazoo, Mich. — The air is muggy, and the sky is over cast as Lori and I walk up to Arcadia Creek Festival Place.
As we cross the bridge to enter the festival, we see bright-colored garments and booths filled with Caribbean artifacts, jewelry and wooden drums available for purchase. The feeling in the air is care-free and relaxed as people saunter around from booth to booth.
It’s the 2014 Kalamazoo Island Festival in downtown Kalamazoo, and Lori Gottschling and I (both interns at Discover Kalamazoo) are here to check out the scene and get some photos.
The sound of Caribbean music fills the grounds as the early-afternoon DJ keeps the island-feel alive. It’ll really pick up tonight when the live performers take stage for the evening and nighttime festivities.
The smell of the festival grounds is overwhelming with sweet, savory deliciousness. So, clearly, we had to head to the food tent. We walk into the huge tent to see people exploring the Caribbean, African and Jamaican tastes.
“It’s a great atmosphere; there are really good vibes here,” said Cassie Markwardt, co-owner of Camzie’s Pizza, a food truck that serves made-to-order pizzas. “The people are awesome.”
Lori and I definitely agree that the people are amazing — especially when Cassie offers us personal pizzas topped with Jamaican jerk chicken, green bell peppers, Ramona and mozzarella cheese and Camzie’s specialty topping, blueberries. (And yes, this pizza was to die for!)
After enjoying our food, Lori and I stop to talk to some of the festival-goers about their experience at Island Fest. We learned that people come from far and wide to enjoy this event, and during their visits, many find much to appreciate about Kalamazoo’s festival scene.
We met Anna Pagan, who came to Kalamazoo from Chicago “specifically for Island Fest.
“This space is awesome in the fact that it’s dedicated to festivals,” Pagan said. “We don’t have anywhere like this in Chicago with the stage and space specifically for this type of event.”
Between bites of his Etal Vegetable Stew from Jessie’s Jamaican, Cosmos Boekey, said, “We came down from Chicago for Island Fest, but I hear you have festivals here almost every weekend in the summer!? That’s awesome.”
Between the setting, music and cuisine, Island Fest definitely takes you away from Michigan and places you somewhere in the Caribbean lying on a beach, listening to reggae tunes in the sunshine.
I look forward to heading back to Kalamazoo Island Festival in the coming years to experience more of the cuisine and to see the live music and listen to the bands that perform at night!
…Until next year, Kalamazoo Island Fest!
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See more PHOTOS of Kalamazoo Island Fest by visiting Discover Kalamazoo on Facebook!