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Steeling It Up at the Caribbean Festival (Parking Grinches Aside)

| June 5, 2010

Sound spice: A member of the Orlando Power Stars Steel Band in action Saturday. (© FlaglerLive)

When it comes to Caribbean traditions, the word is vibrant: vibrant sounds, vibrant colors (no pastels need apply), especially vibrant, tropical juices and tastes spiced up with cinnamon, ginger, allspice and curry, to name a few.

Watch the Orlando Power Stars Steel Band (Give it a moment to load: it’s worth the high def)
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Caribbean nations are small and spread out, but they’re an empire for the senses, and that empire was on display for the tasting at the 8th Annual Caribbean Festival at Thunder Gulch Camp Ground in Bunnell Saturday, off of U.S. Route 1–and will be all day Sunday, until 7 p.m.

Last year the event was held in Town Center, and at the Palm Coast campus of Daytona State College the years before that. It moved to John Seibel’s camp ground this year, its size commanding more room every year.

As always, the event began with the parade of flags showcasing the breadth and variety of Caribbean nations, almost three dozen of them that either bathe in the waters of the Caribbean Sea or have at least some geographical claim to it: Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados, Jamaica, Cuba and Haiti, among others, are core Caribbean, but even Mexico, Central American nations and Latin America’s northeast neighbors of the Antilles such as Venezuela and Colombia have distant cultural affinities with the Caribbeans.

Leo James (© FlaglerLive)

The parade, the greetings, the thanks and Star Spangled Banner over, the festival got under way in earnest with live music, braised food and a few dozen booths of all sorts that make a festival what it is, all to the sounds of raggae, salsa, soca, calypso and, of course, the steel drums.

Leo James’ Orlando Power Stars were an early highlight Saturday–a steel band that started with just three people in 1993, and that now boasts 30 players from all over the Caribbean, many of them children. “The kids are American, they were born here,” said James, who’s from Trinidad and has been doing this since he was 6 or 7. He’s 65. “The parents want them to learn the culture, the steel drums. So basically that’s what we do: we teach the kids.”

James’ Stars have been coming to Palm Coast and Flagler County to play for 12 years, even before the festival was the annual event it’s become. They have 20 gigs or more around Florida every year, renting a Budget truck for the drums and traveling around by van. They’ll be playing again on Sunday.

Gail Wadsworth and John Seibel doing the Antilles. (© FlaglerLive)

Also on the live-acts schedule: The Matanzas High School Steel Band, Swanky Moe’s Skin Deep, High Energy, Brother J, Enchanted Belly Dancers, Impacto Latino, and much more.

The event was free of charge in the past, but it always ran in the red, says Ronald Robinson, vice president of the United Caribeean Cultural Association of Palm Coast, which puts on the festival. So this year there’s a $5 charge for those older than 12. Those 12 or younger get in free.

And be warned about parking: It’s free. But pilferers and deceivers not associated with the festival are brandishing signs claiming to take “donations” of $5 for parking and diverting entering traffic to business properties near the campgrounds. Ignore them if you don’t want to pay for parking, and look for Caribbean festival staff attendants inside the campground, who’ll guide you to free spots. You only pay for individual admission.

United Colors of Bunnell. (© FlaglerLive)

With thanks to Kari.

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6 Responses for “Steeling It Up at the Caribbean Festival (Parking Grinches Aside)”

  1. Mark Langello says:

    I have just read your article about the Caribbean Fest and I needed to respond to it, and your writer, whoever he is. I am not surprised he does not identify himself.

    First, to identify who I am, I am one of the “Pilfers and deceivers” referred to and slandered in this “article”. In my many years of life I have worked in journalism professionally for almost two decades, for both local and then national publications. It has always been the prime tenant of true journalism to get the facts, and then report the truth. This was not done by the unnamed author of the article in question.

    To begin with, the organizers of this event apparently did not want to pay the fee the City of Palm Coast wanted, to hold this event. Granted, the fees were raised by Palm Coast this year, and the City of Bunnell was more interested in accommodating this festival and charged a fraction of the Palm Coast fee, but the choice of location was driven more out of their need to spend less, than any need to find a bigger location to hold the event. This was evident by the extremely small turnout that did show up, a mere fraction from that which was reported to have attended this event in previous years.

    The location, Thunder Gulch, offered a great deal for the organizers including a cozy location under nice shade trees with a small lake in the background. However, the organizers gave expectations of thousands of attendees and with any reasonable accounting of the parking needs, Thunder Gulch did not have enough spaces to accommodate that many cars. Furthermore, the City acknowledged this fact and required the event organizers to secure enough parking to put on their event. Adjacent to Thunder Gulch on the same side of US 1, are three large commercial sites whose owners were able and willing to work with the organizers and their parking needs. The organizers decided they did not want to spend any of their money on their event to secure the required parking but still wanted, and needed to use other people’s private (not public) property for their needs. All three land owners were faced with a few choices. First, to understand the situation at hand, all three land owners have active businesses on these properties which were also open for business on Saturday and Sunday (the days of the event), and these active businesses paid for the use of the said land and their respective parking. This means that the overtaking of these private property’s parking lots would cause issues with the tenants and paying occupants of the three properties, and they would receive no compensation for this. So facing this reality, and the fact that to park hundreds, if not over a thousand cars, the lots would need parking attendants to make sure the cars were parked in proper lanes, allowing egress and access for others to park and leave, and non-impeded travel of emergency fire, ambulance, and police vehicles within those properties. Also, there would be the cost of possible damage to the properties and buildings, and the cleaning of trash which always follows such large event parking. Liability insurance must be secured especially for the event, and the control of parking areas be maintained to allow the needed parking to be reserved for the existing paying tenants of the properties and their customers. By the way, none of the businesses open and active during the event on the three land owners’ properties would remotely benefit from the traffic of the Caribbean Fest. These businesses include several private social clubs, a motocross track, pool hall, two churches, a call center, and a karate school.

    So the land owners could do one of three things faced with these facts.
    First, they could not let the organizers use the land for the event, which does not benefit them or their clients, and the event would not be allowed to be permitted. Second, they could do what the organizers wanted, and let them use the land without cost, and put their property in peril, upset their tenants and possibly disrupt those businesses and entities, and take on the expenses and responsibility on their own. Or lastly, do what happened, make an arrangement with the event organizers in advance to let the event use the lots but charge for cost involved to man and prepare for the traffic. The land owners decided to bring in a charity, and charge the event attendees for the parking while raising the money to help others. The organizers entered into an agreement with two of the land owners, (these two had enough spaces on their combined properties to accommodate the event’s needs), and wrote a letter addressed to them asking to use the land, acknowledging the fact that the land owners would and could charge for the parking, agree to clean any mess on the lots when the event was over and provide insurance coverage to the land owners for the event parking. This letter was required by the land owners so there would not be a misunderstanding as to what would happen, and no ill will on anyone’s side would occur. The organizers were further required to give both land owners a small deposit against the cleaning of the trash of the land, refundable after the event. The letters were written and signed, the checks were issued, and all was set. Thunder Gulch would supply fewer than 200 spaces for free (since they were hosting the event and were compensated in other manners) and the land owners then worked with the City and the organizers to provide parking at a charge to the public who parked on those properties.

    At this point, it should be clear, that the italicized statement in your article by the unnamed author that the “Pilfers” were not pilfers, and certainly were associated with the event and provided a valuable service. But the “deceivers” remark seems to come out of left field. It is not easy to understand why the anonymous scriber of your article would use this slanderous and inflammatory word, but one can only image. The people who wanted to park in those lots were told how much it would cost, $5. Those who didn’t want to pay left and either did not return, or parked somewhere else, probably at Thunder Gulch for free. Those who parked on those lots then went to the gate of the event and were told to pay again to enter the event. This got those people mad. Many had kids, and the families with kids over 12 years old had to pay $5 per head, in many cases costing them $20 to $40 or more just to enter. Many left and didn’t go in, and were enraged this whole thing would cost them so much even before they had the chance to taste any of the great food or spend it on any other items inside. It was then told to the angry public that the people parking the cars were the villains. Of course, this was not true. In previous years the guests of the event did not have to pay to enter, or park, and the turnout was larger, and the attendees happy all around. But this year, the organizers decided not to pay for the parking but let the guests pay, and then charge them again at the gate to enter. This “admission” was called a donation, and therefore should not have to be mandatory. It seems even if they didn’t realize that their decision prior to the event would cause such anger in many people, they could have corrected the problem at the gate and let the people get in for $5 less per family, making the parking free to their guest, and avoiding the ill will that ensued. Was this done? The organizers did go the land owners during the event and ask them to explain to their guests that the parking fee was just that, and another fee would be charged at the gate. Now, the land owners were also tasked with doing the PR for the organizers and deal with the angry people before they got to the gate.
    The land owners agreed (wow, now that is a real deceiver).

    It should be noted here that the land owners paid for several needed things prior to the event in order to handle the large amount of cars expected, and they decided to let any excess money after expenses go to a needy local charity, a fund raiser for a youth athletic baseball league in their pursuit to travel to a championship tournament these great kids have been working hard to get to. So these kids and their families, along with the land owners, with their families, came out and manned the event parking on the lots so there would be no labor charges, and the fund raiser would be a success. I can tell you first hand, many of the people who came to the pay lots, who didn’t want to pay were told what the organizers wanted said, and were then told they could try to get a space in the free lot to park, if it was available. It must have been available since by early afternoon, people associated with the event decided to go out on one of the land owners property’s driveway, and wave in people who were going to park in the lots manned by the youth baseball team and tell them to park for free further in the back of the property. Then, unbelievably, some people associated with the event, came out on the land owner’s property yelling and swearing derogatory remarks at the kids. The poor kids were called thieves, crooks, and swindlers, and all the while being peppered with the “F” bomb.

    This event had evidently a small turnout by the public, and with all the negativity flying around, by 2:30pm one of the land owners decided to pull up stakes and let the public park in the other lots since his lot was not needed at all. The other pay lot decided to stop asking for the $5 to park and let the public park on the property for free and just ask the people if they wanted to donate a buck, .50, or anything to the kids fundraiser and still let them park even if they didn’t want to contribute to their cause. Now this should make everyone happy, right? No.

    The organizer’s minions continued to hassle the kids, stand in the driveway, persuade people not to park with the kids, and blame the youth for their failures. It should be known that between both land owners, only around 50 or 60 cars paid to park, and not even enough money was raised to cover the upfront costs of the land owners. Both land owners absorbed the costs and the kids got a little money for their cause. The kids and families also lost a nice day where they could have enjoyed it somewhere else, practiced and played baseball, and not suffer in the grueling heat and be harassed by people and called obscene names. And to put the sour icing on the cake, then come home to hear them again insulted and slandered in your article by the “man behind the curtain”.

    Now I would be happy to show the signed letter mentioned above agreeing to the pay parking situation, the checks and insurance to support the facts I have outlined. This would gladly be done in the effort for you to reverse your false claims, apologize for the misunderstanding in your article, and maybe even show true grit and American resolve and see if your publication would donate, anything, to those kids for their charity. I guess the ball is in your court and the accuracy of your publication’s statement “No Bull. No Fluff. No Smudges” be tested.

  2. Pierre Tristam says:

    As the editor of this site (my desk phone number is at the bottom of every page) and as the author of the article above, let me add, to the pilferers and deceivers line, by which I stand, one more word, specifically about Mark Langello’s flood: disingenuous.

    I spoke with Carlton Harris, president of the Caribbean association. I also spoke with Mick Curthbertson, Bunnell’s community development director and the city’s point man on this festival. Both said in no uncertain terms that while there was an agreement with the neighboring businesses, it was only for overflow parking, in case it was needed. Harris, Cuthbertson, and others who spoke to me, saw people being diverted into the businesses’ parking lots outright. That was not the agreement. Nor was overflow ever needed: attendance never reached overflow levels, as even Langello points out in his gleeful reference to “a small turnout.” That’s the issue.

    Too bad children were used, and misused, in the deal, and invoked yet again in Langello’s dirge. That’s not their fault. They too were deceived.

  3. Mark Langello says:

    I do not wish to get involved in a back and forth with the author. I wrote to him to set the record straight, give the facts, and see if he was man enough to correct his flippant remarks. It is obvious he is not. So I only wish to respond this time in the off chance someone else is reading this and gives a hoot about the truth.

    The letter signed by Mr. Harris requesting the parking, and confirming my account was sent to the author. In the letter no discussion of “overflow”
    parking was discussed in any form. Only the facts I have laid out including the intention to charge for parking as a fund raiser was in the letter and agreement. The author breezes over this and makes third hand accounts of other things happening. It is also impractical for any sort of parking arrangement to occur where people would fill the free lot in the back of the property first and then the other lots would somehow kick into action, especially since the free parking was in the very back of the property, out of sight, along a narrow dirt road, and not clearly marked. In addition, the organizers did not communicate with the other lots very well, and in fact, that day throughout the debacle they still didn’t communicate much. The thought that these kids and families would just sit in their lots, doing nothing until cars backed up and blocked the narrow road and then they would park cars is absurd. These people were told their lots were needed, thousands of people would be attending, and no discussion of them waiting for confusion to set in before they begun the job they came there to do was considered by anyone.

    However, as stated in my first letter, once it was evident the lots were not needed, one was shut down and the other was turned into a free lot. The author’s last remark that these kids were misused is partly true. After he calls them pilfers and deceivers, it is he who has used them in his article and still refuses to apologize for any hurt he may have caused. The author can not show any pilfering or deception, and the facts prove that his statement that these people were “NOT” associated with the event was false, shows he is the disingenuous one, and too small to admit his errors.

    As to the author’s offhand remark that I was somehow gleeful with the bad news the event did not have a good turnout is petty and incorrect. The obvious truth is I am very sad for everyone involved; the vendors who paid good money to be there, the City who prepared for a large turnout, the kids, families and property owners who came out for one thing and got another, and for the festival goers who came expecting more than they got. It seems the author’s article was “FLUFF” and full of “BULL” and not worthy of further thought.

  4. Anonymous says:

    The kids were aggressive. What responsible parent would put them in them in harm’s way?

  5. John Seibel says:

    I am sad that the parking arrangements went so sour for the Caribbean Festival. The agreements seemed logical and fair and all agreed. It did not bother me that event parking signs were placed in the medians of US-1 by adjoining property owners, so long as attendees of the Festival had a choice of electing to park, giving the PAL kids a contribution of $5, or to park free.

    What was wrong was the approach by the PAL kids. They stopped traffic by jumping in front of cars and telling people, “That’ll be $5, and pull in right here.” They gave the attendees the impression that it was their entrance fee and when they came to the gate and were asked for $5 again they were upset…some left.

    The kids were unbelievably aggressive. They tore down the Caribbean Cultural Association’s signs, sat on the fence of Thunder Gulch hiding the signs, and told the Caribbean group that they owned the road and the Caribbeans had no right to post signs.

    It is true that the neighboring property owner owns the road, but he purchased it with the full understanding of an existing easement agreement giving adjoining property owners the full use of the road in perpetuity.

    As it turned out, the extra parking was never really needed. Folks came, stayed a couple of hours and left. There was a constant turn-over of attendees, as has been the case for the 8 year history of the Festival.

    All and all, the Festival was great fun. I heard nothing but compliments about the food, the Island Entertainment, the colorful vendors, and the Park, itself.

    John Seibel,
    Thunder Gulch Campground

  6. Hans-Peter Meister says:

    Hello John,
    can you give me your e-mail adress?

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