Best Festival (2006)
Jamaican Jerk Festival
Just as the giant Chili Cookoff inspires food with the impact of a reactor-core meltdown, the Jerk Festival usually ignites taste buds in a big way. Scotch bonnet peppers, the fiery ingredient in jerk sauce, appears to greater and lesser degrees in the authentic Jamaican cuisine offered by vendors and competitors. Having outgrown a smaller spot in Pembroke Pines, the festival settled into the big fields of Markham Park last year, where the food and music lasts until 9 p.m. (last call used to come at 5:30 in the old location). And there's more jerk chicken, fish, and pork than ever before, with a $500 prize and the Dutch Pot Trophy waiting for whoever can curry the judges' favor without burning their tongues. Instead of the country anthems that blare at the redneckian Chili Cookoff, these jerk fans get off on reggae, ska, dancehall, soca, and mento. The red, gold, and green banner of the World's Loudest Island replaces the Stars & Bars. Caribbean-made and themed wares, naturally, are aplenty. If you simply must make an ass of yourself, the opportunity awaits at the jerk-pork-eating competition. Just don't call it a jerk-off.