November 16, 2018

Winnipeg
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Celebration

Soca Reggae Festival / Old Market Square

They be jammin’ in Old Market Square.

They also be eatin’ a wide variety of tasty treats from the Caribbean (Jamaica, in particular), African and South American, as well as hearty Canadian fare.

Ignore the health nuts who say snacking this deep into the evening could be detrimental to your health. It's the 2018 Soca Reggae Festival and the grub's too good to pass up.

Food trucks offer a wide variety of Caribbean options at the Soca Reggae Festival.

Food trucks offer a wide variety of Caribbean options at the Soca Reggae Festival.

Jerk chicken? Check!

Curried veggie roti? Check!

Mango slaw? Check!

Oxtail with rice and peas? Check, check, check!

Let’s just call it exactly what it is — a fun, late-night tour of delectable discovery.

"I have to be honest, a lot of the food here is very similar to the tastes of the Caribbean," says Page Laurent, the man behind the weekend festival that merges cool music and hot cuisine.

"I've tried a lot of it and it's great. My favourite is curry chicken with rice and peas."

A man who identified himself as Prince fist-bumps the cook at a food truck.

A man who identified himself as Prince fist-bumps the cook at a food truck.

Winnipegger Jenn Swain, who has travelled to Jamaica a few times and fallen in love with the food, orders the jerk chicken meal from the R U Caribbean Me? food truck and is thoroughly impressed.

"It was delicious. It was pretty close to what I've had in Jamaica. It was really spicy... definitely had some zip to it," she says, nearly screaming over super-cool Jamaican reggae artist Jah Cutta and his seven-piece band blasting at high volume on the Cube stage.

The jerk chicken is a hit.

The jerk chicken is a hit.

Dane Hope runs the eatery on wheels and is pleased with Swain's review. Much of his menu, including his specialty, jerk chicken — pieces of poultry infused with marinade and blackened by the grill — are taken right from old family recipes from Guyana.

"I started with mom's recipes but I've tweaked them and made them my own," Hope says. "I've been to several countries and studied the food. This truck is an homage to all of the Caribbean. You're getting a taste of something from everywhere."

Add in the driving intensity of the dance floor, the sweetness of children keeping a beach ball in the air and the mix of colourful island clothing, and the whole scene warms the organizer's heart.

Laurent who hails from the Commonwealth of Dominica, a tiny island in the West Indies, looks out at the huge crowd still in full party mode just before midnight — a mix of foodies and reggae and soca music lovers — and is thrilled.

"I'm thankful for the hot weather and I'm thankful for the people of Winnipeg. I love it," he says.

Alexie Findlay enjoys an oxtail curry.

Alexie Findlay enjoys an oxtail curry.

Contrary to Bob Marley's overwhelming chorus, it's near-impossible to choose One Love from all the dishes. It’s about savouring everything on the plate, washed down with Jamaica's famous barley nectar, Red Stripe, right from the stubby dark bottle.

So, "let’s get together and eat all night."

— Jason Bell
Photography by Mikaela MacKenzie

hors d'oeuvre
12 am
1 am
2 am
3 am
4 am
5 am
6 am
7 am
8 am
9 am
10 am
11 am
Noon
1 pm
2 pm
3 pm
4 pm
5 pm
6 pm
7 pm
8 pm
9 pm
10 pm
11 pm
Dessert
Nightcap

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