Going to the Philadelphia Caribbean Festival every year was intended to make up for not having the state fair easily accessible. This was a great event that I attended for years. I’ll be missing it this year because we’ve moved.
But when I was a kid, we’d anticipate this day almost as much as we did Christmas and Easter (almost). The night before, our parents would have a really hard time getting us to sleep. We’d jump on the beds and screech and giggle well into the night until we finally fell asleep from exhaustion.
In the morning, the first one up would get the other siblings up and we’d all run downstairs in our pajamas. If our mom was up already, which she did about half the time, she’d be fixing us breakfast and admonishing us to be quiet and let our dad sleep in, since he worked hard and weekends were his time to catch up on sleep.
That didn’t last long.
We’d be so loud that there was no way he could sleep anyway. He’d come out in his pajamas and robe, rubbing his eyes and growling at us. We’d all pretend to be terrified of him but we knew he was just kidding.
Getting dressed was probably the easiest day my mom ever had it. Usually she’d have to fight us and beg and bribe us to get into our clean clothes. This day we’d be in our clothes and shoes in no time flat. We’d rush downstairs and stand by the door while our parents got ready. They were always kind of slow so we’d get bored standing there and eventually turn on the TV to watch cartoons, but on this Saturday it’d be with one ear cocked for the tell-tale sounds of our parents coming down the stairs.
We’d drive to the fair, and my dad would always drive around and around trying to find a parking spot, because he refused to pay for parking (one of his quirks). Finally when he’d find a spot it felt like we’d won the lottery.
My mother would put a thick red strand of yarn around our wrists to help keep tabs on us. We’d get on the side of the streets to watch the parade and plot our day. My brother and I liked the rides, while my sisters liked the games and weird things. The one thing we all agreed on- the food! It was so good. Greasy, disgusting, and wonderful. My favorites are funnel cakes and crawfish sandwiches. My parents liked the Caribbean jerk dishes and the girls liked the peas and rice and roti.
I remember when we all started to feel we were too big for the “children’s section” and wanted to not be seen there with the “babies” on the “baby rides”.
One of my favorite things to do was watch the maypole dancers. They had a huge pole with pretty ribbons and dancers would around each other and wrap the ribbons around the pole. They’d give lessons too, and my mom would do them. I always thought she was so pretty when she was dancing.
We’d stay all day, not wanting to leave when it was over. Even though we were exhausted and slept on the way home clutching our ropes of licorice or cotton candy cones, all night long we’d dream about the festival and how we couldn’t wait to go back next year.