Mas was hot in Belleville on Saturday

Belleville Hot Hot Hot

Saturday’s sun brought the Caribbean heat to Belleville as the city held its first annual Caribbean Festival.

Thousands of participants made their way to Front Street for the sights, sounds and tastes put on display by their Caribbean neighbours.

Steel pan drummers, local musical artists and Juno award-winning R&B artist ​​Sean Jones and band The Righteous Echo were on stage to provide music that crowds could not stop dancing to.

“You can see the smiles on the faces, and lots of diversity on stage,” said Coun. Sean Kelly. “This is a great, beautiful way to welcome in the first weekend of summer.”

The event was largely organized through the city’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion committee, of which Kelly is chair. The committee relies on leadership from the community to guide planners as they work to organize a festival which celebrates specific cultures.

Karen Clayton-Babb, a chief nurse practitioner and clinic director for the Belleville Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinic, was a key figure in organizing the day’s events.

Karen Clayton-Badd organizer

With the Diwali event held last year, Belleville has recently begun a large effort to host events which showcase the diversity of the city.

“It’s an excellent feeling, It’s really an excellent feeling to feel represented,” said Clayton-Babb. “The Caribbean community is in the minority. So this sort of event does bring a good feeling and I don’t think I speak for myself — I think I speak for the entire Caribbean Community.”

The event has been years in the making due to delays brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the previous setbacks, Saturday’s event went off without a hitch. The day’s focus was on music, dancing and of course food.

“This year, we really started working on it early to get it together,” said Clayton-Babb. “It feels so good. I’m so happy to be here. The music alone, it just sounds Caribbean, not to mention the weather.”

While the Caribbean community in Belleville might not rival that seen in Toronto, the community’s spirit to party and celebrate is just as strong. Organizers hope events like this will attract more diversity into the region.

Sean Jones and his band The Righteous had them moving

“We hope that the community can become more visible. And I think this event is one such activity and forum to make that happen,” said Clayton-Babb. “It can be used as an event to bring people into the community to let them know that the Bay of Quinte is a beautiful place to live.”

Like their other culturally-focused events, Belleville’s Caribbean festival aims to provide a venue for residents to learn about and experience the rich backgrounds found in the region.

“It is really a means of building integration,” said Clayton-Babb. “Integrating all the cultures that are here, whether they’re from the Caribbean or not, because it only makes the community more rich.”

Belleville Keith Pascall brought his drummers