The annual Jacksonville Caribbean Carnival officially starts June 26 with a Carmeritage De Boat Ride on the Lady St. Johns. Boarding starts at 10 p.m. at 1501 Riverplace Blvd. and the Lady St. Johns sets sail at 10:30 p.m.
The boat ride is being sponsored by the Carnival Organization of Jacksonville, Inc. (COOJI) in honor of Caribbean American Heritage Month. COOJI began in 1998 as a carnival costume producing band and took place in what was then known as the Jacksonville Caribe Street Festival. In October 2000, the first Jacksonville Caribbean Carnival was held at Jacksonville Beach. The venue changed to Heming Plaza downtown in 2003 and has been at its current location at Metropolitan Park since 2005. The Jacksonville Caribbean Carnival is always held in October and the festivities begin with a street parade down Bay Street into Metro Park, complete with costumes and a steel pan band. Carnival goers enjoy the best in reggae, soca, and calypso music throughout the day by various local and international artists, as well as the chance to buy great products and sample delicious Caribbean food from vendors. This year’s Carnival will be held on October 23.
Events leading up to the carnival begin over the summer and continue through the fall as excitement builds for the largest annual Caribbean cultural event in the city. Jacksonville has a large Caribbean community, with citizens from Trinidad, the Bahamas, Jamaica, Antigua, the Virgin Islands, and every island in between.
Tickets for the Carmeritage Boat Road are $25.00 in advance, with the price increasing at the pier. Advance tickets can be purchased online at the COOJI website, or through the following local vendors: Laparkan Shipping: (904) 647-5167, Flavor Paradise: (904) 771-9705, Positive Irations: (904) 306-9637, and Island Tropics (904) 355-9050.
I will be providing continued coverage of the events leading up to the Carnival, as well as of Carnival itself, so make sure to stay tuned and subscribe to my column so that you don’t miss out.