The District has seen its share of annual events come and go, but one of the mainstays just keeps on proving why it continues to flourish.
YaMaka My Weekend, the Caribbean-themed festival, stomped through The Rock Island District Aug. 12-13, offering exotic foods, cool island beats and lots of fun for the whole family.
My three-year-old son Jackson and I checked out the event on Saturday and spent the whole day having fun in the sun. And even if the rays were beating down on Midwest soil, we still had a good feel for the tropics.
In my younger, pre-fathering days, my times at YaMaka were typically confined to night time escapades, cruising around with friends with a Red Stripe or Corona in hand. Nowadays, my beverage of choice is confined to the rasta lemonade and my hours are far more on the reasonable side, given that I’ve got my little fella in tow. But I’m having more fun than ever at the festivals, seeing them from a different perspective and enjoying them through the eyes of my son discovering many of them for the first time.
Jackson had been to YaMaka before, but this was the first year he was really old enough to get into the full swing of things, and he, like the many other children attending the fest, enjoyed it thoroughly.
We began the day grabbing some spicy fried alligator, red beans and rice and a couple of rasta lemonades. The gator didn’t exactly thrill either of us, so it was quickly donated to the garbage bin, but we both loved the red beans and rice and the lemonades. Rasta lemonade may sound like something borderline illegal, but it’s merely a sweeter, more nectar-like version of the traditional lemonade. Minus the bitterness, it’s all the more refreshing.
While we were noshing on lunch, we walked through the shops and checked out the different Jamaican-themed wares, from clothing to beads to jewelry to various knick-knacks. All of the shopkeepers were chatty and vivacious and Jackson loved seeing the sundry colorful items.
The mainstay of the festival, of course, is the reggae music, and we had a great time taking it in on both stages. YaMaka offers a cool mix of party reggae and more traditional stuff, and Jackson (who is a big reggae fan — his favorite musical artist is Bob Marley) had a blast dancing along with the other little kids in front of the main stage.
After checking out the music we hit the sandbox and the kiddie games, which was located adjascent to the volleyball court. When I first saw this, I was a little uncertain. After all, oblivious kids and fast-moving volleyballs zooming out of the court of play did not seem like a particularly amusing mix. But, thankfully, the volleyballs rarely left the field of play and when they did they were rarely at a speed to cause anything more than a minor annoyance if they bopped a passing child. That allowed the kids the freedom to spend hours playing in the sand, throwing beanbags and goofing around with the handful of games available.
As with my apprehension over the proximity of the volleyball courts, I was likewise a little dubious in regard to the seemingly limited number of activities for the kids. But in the end, I had to do some heavy convincing to get Jackson out of the area. Take kids, add sand and you don’t really need a whole lot of other entertainment.
After coaxing him out for dinner, we hit up the food stands again for some delicious jerk chicken and listened to some more reggae before taking a final walk around the fest, greeting the two dozen or so people dressed as pirates and making our way out as the sun was getting ready to set. In years past, that would typically mark the time I’d just be getting to the festival, and I can certainly vouch for it being a blast in the nighttime hours. But now, just the same, I can give it a full endorsement for daytime family fun too.
It’s little wonder YaMaka My Weekend continues to maka District goers weekends every August. Make sure to put it on your calendar next year for some island fun.
copyright 2011 Sean Leary / for more writing see www.seanleary.com