There is a twist to this year’s Yarmouth Seafood and Wine Extravaganza – a “twist of Jamaica” – and the event, scheduled for the weekend of Aug. 9-11, will help set the stage for a new cultural initiative planned for early September, this one also involving Jamaica, food and more.
It’s all part of a broader vision to promote the region’s food and hospitality and have something that draws people to southwestern Nova Scotia the way the Celtic Colours festival attracts visitors to Cape Breton.
First, though, it’s the Seafood and Wine Extravaganza, which is in its eighth year and which actually consists of three different events on three consecutive days, starting with the VON’s Surf or Turf dinner on Friday, Aug. 9, followed by Seafood Splash on the Waterfront on Saturday, Aug. 10, and then the main event, the Seafood and Wine Extravaganza itself, on Sunday, Aug. 11.
All three will have a “twist of Jamaica” theme, with the Aug. 11 event taking place at the Rodd Grand Hotel, where chefs Dale Nichols from the Digby Pines, Cory McLaughlin from the Hatfield House in Tusket and Tony Ross and Nicole Hopkins, formerly of the Lobster Shack in Barrington, will give cooking demonstrations.
Four weeks later, on the weekend after Labour Day, a new initiative called Cultural Exchange – Jamaica will make its debut.
Like the Seafood and Wine Extravaganza, this will be a series of events, including what is billed as On the Rocks, an event taking place just below the Cape Forchu lighthouse, where Nova Scotia chefs will be cooking, along with some visiting chefs from Jamaica. There will be music, guided tours of Leif Erikson Park and more.
Another of the weekend’s events – this one called On the Shore – will take place at the West Pubnico Golf and Country Club, where people will have a chance to cook with the chefs.
Meanwhile, on top of what’s planned for August and September, a group from here will travel to Jamaica for a few days in October to do a festival for people there. Members of the public are invited to join them, says Carole Hill-Bojarski, president of the Yarmouth Seafood and Wine Extravaganza Society.
“They have arranged for several really fantastic packages for people from here to travel to Jamaica to enjoy this,” she said.
Referring to the effort to develop a cultural exchange between the Yarmouth area and Jamaica, she said, “We have discovered that we have very strong connections with this particular little town in Jamaica called Treasure Beach. They are located in the southwest corner of Jamaica and we, of course, are in southwest Nova.”
But Jamaica is just the start. Hill-Bojarski said they have a four-year plan that includes having a cultural exchange next year with Italy, so expect events in 2020 to have an Italian twist.
“Italy will be added,” she said. “We’re not dropping Jamaica and then moving to Italy. Every year, as we go forward, it’s just going to add to what’s already established ... (but for now) we really need everybody’s support to make this year a smashing success so that we can move forward on that four-year plan.”
Hill-Bojarski acknowledges what they’re looking to do is pretty big and challenging.
“It is extremely ambitious, without question,” she said, “and it’s probably better that we really didn’t know how ambitious it was until we got headlong into it. Just swapping three chefs – our three chefs going down there and their three chefs coming up here – it doesn’t sound like too much of anything until you build the entire festival around them. Then it’s a big deal.”
She laughed a bit when finishing that last statement, but she and her colleagues are serious about wanting to do something big that will promote southwestern Nova Scotia and help attract visitors to the region. Tourism Nova Scotia is on board too, she said.
“They are really keen on this,” she said. “They are super-supportive of this being a success.”