Festival Rum Bahamas has done it again! Fabulous food, delightful drinks, and myriad musical performances have me feeling so good, I couldn’t help but overuse alliteration!
In addition to international and domestic tourists, it was great to see so many people from the ‘furthest eastern and western reaches’ of New Providence coming together to enjoy their day at Fort Charlotte! While some festival attendees claimed that they weren’t initially going to attend the festival because they don’t like rum (gasp) or don’t drink at all, once they learned that there were opportunities for learning about the history of rum, live performances and even zip-lining, they realized it’d be worthwhile to come out to support the event. It’s actually a real family event during the day time…just ask Jackson, the ‘official baby representative’ of Rum Bahamas Festival!
The festival boasts an impressive lineup of events, which you can find here. Additionally, you’re sure to be delighted by the ‘slow walker’, the mermaid, men on stilts, and countless pirates – all decked out in incredible costumes.
Happy Foods 242 was on the scene Saturday afternoon, sampling loads of great eats in addition to checking out some of the other stalls selling a variety of products including: handicrafts, Abaco Neem, produce from Bahama Islands Farm, and even cigars.
For the second time around, the show’s host, Sasha Laurel, invited Kyle Walkine to cohost during the festival. Together, with the show’s producer, Jay Isaacs of JKL Media, the team sampled drinks ranging from Dirty Mules to caipirinhas, and delectable dishes that included conch salad, oxtail, and jerk chicken and pork. Though all of the vendors served excellent food, I must admit that Vell Monkey Foot won me over when I tasted their succulent chicken quesadilla with fresh salsa!
Obviously, a lot of hard work goes into pulling off an event of this magnitude! I had the pleasure of speaking with on of the organizers: Catherine Chisnall Mitchell, who explained that the festival is really about developing something that is authentic to the Bahamian experience, while continuing to attract tourism – in turn, creating jobs for locals. “There are a lot of out-of-the-box thinkers in the Bahamas, and we’ve always be renowned for our extraordinary hospitality”.
“When I first introduced the idea [of the festival] to my boyfriend, Ronnie Butler,” Catherine joked, “he said it sounded nostalgic – that it conjured up the memories of back in the day when you could sit back on a beach or in a club and feel safe and feel wrapped up in everything that is ‘home’. Catherine explained that “the Festival Rum Bahamas team recognizes the importance of creating Hallmark events so that we can care for the vendors who don’t fit into a typical 9-5 environment, or who sell a product that needs a little coaching before it makes it to a retail space.”
“We’ve always tried to encourage our small businesses – our grass-roots entrepreneurs -to come out and find their place in the festival marketplace.” In fact, Catherine pointed to Australia as a model: “Places like Australia teach festival tourism in their universities because they take its economic potential seriously. We’re trying to empower people to become entrepreneurs. For the third year in a row, we’ve sponsored micro-businesses with booths as well as free vendor training from a program we’ve created to fit the needs of micro-businesses.”
Many of their trainees have done extraordinarily well, with some going from simple home kitchens to now setting up store-fronts and selling internationally because of the demand for their products.
“We all know that we need to set the bar higher when it comes to that which we consume as a country. We all talk about “buying Bahamian” and it being “Better in the Bahamas”, and Rum Bahamas Festival is our way of proving that it’s great here”.
“This is who we are as a people! Fort Charlotte belongs to us! It’s history, and it’s ours. So, we’re just claiming the best of the Bahamas and letting our little light shine!”