Grace Jamaican Jerk Fest $picing Up South Florida’s Economy
By Mercus Manley and Mahagony Sylvester, Investigative Reporters,
assisted by Justin Peart.
Photos Courtesy of David Muir (David I Photo).
November 10, 2013 witnessed the culmination of the 12th staging of the Grace Jamaican Jerk Fest in South Florida. Over the last 12 years, this ethnic food festival has grown from a small affair with a few thousand attendees into a gargantuan multifaceted celebration of Jerked Cuisine and Caribbean Entertainment. This annual family oriented event now attracts patrons from all over the United States and parts of the Caribbean on a quest for the ultimate Jerk Experience. One patron from New Jersey stated that he felt more at ease in the well-behaved South Florida crowd, comparing this situation to the sometimes uncontrollable New York masses.
The Jamaican Jerk Fest is now anticipated as a signature yearly Caribbean event contributing substantially to the increasingly robust South Florida economy. The estimated economic impact is in the region of $1.75 – $2.25 million in direct and indirect spending.
Let’s do the math!! It is estimated that there were overall about 20,000 patrons soaking up the vibes at Markham Park (17,000) on November 10 and at the other events spread throughout Jerk Week, which started on November 3 with the 5K Jerk Trot. Assuming a 50:50 split between presold tickets ($20 each) and “at the gate” tickets ($30 each), also tickets for other events, there would be just over $500,000 in ticket revenue. An estimated 5000 motor vehicles were charged $5 each for parking, leading to $25,000 in parking fees.
The vendors were kept very busy by patrons for most of the day. One restaurateur grinning from ear to ear shared, “I am very satisfied. The sales were much better than last year’s. I can take a vacation now.” Making a conservative average estimate of $10 per person for food, drink, desserts, the total would be about $200,000. If half the number of attendees (10000) spent $10 on CDs, souvenirs, and other non-food products, the total would be $100,000. There were over 50 booths at Markham Park with rental rates ranging from about $450 for non-profit agencies to $1500 for food vendors. The estimate for this is about $50,000. Vendors also invested in the displays, equipment, development of finished products and personnel to provide adequate customer service. The average vendor could easily have spent about $1500 on preparation and delivery of products/services. The estimated total is about $75,000.
Artistes – Gone are the early days when the Jerk Festival attracted mostly “no name” artistes. This year we were treated to top artistes like Etana, Fab Five and Morgan Heritage supported by a number of upcoming artistes. These renowned artistes are said to be usually paid $10,000 and up for each performance, therefore the estimate for entertainment is about $50,000.
There was also the rental/purchase of booth display equipment and tents, media equipment, stage lighting, music equipment along with electrical technicians, hiring of emcees and DJs could easily amount to $10,000. Money was spent on the rental of Markham Park, estimated to be about $10,000.
Keep patrons safe is a top priority of the organizers and everyone was thoroughly searched before entering the festival. There were an estimated 12 uniformed police officers plus a number of private security personnel manning gates and keeping watch over the very large crowd. The estimate for security costs is about $20,000.
There were copious amounts of Newspaper, Magazine, Radio, TV, Online advertising that are estimated to account for about $20,000. Sponsorship has also increased over the years with marquee brands such as Grace, Digicel, Publix, Caribbean Air and Western Union among others. These corporations together likely provide over $150,000 worth of sponsorship.
Also benefiting indirectly from the descent of people into South Florida were the hotels, shopping malls, car rental agencies, and restaurants. It is probable that 25% of the Jerk Fest guests were from out of town and possibly spending at least one night at a hotel. Using an average cost $100/night per couple, the total would be $250,000. One thing that visitors learn very quickly in South Florida is that it is far cheaper to rent a car than to take a taxi. Using car-rental rates of $40/day and assuming 1000 car rentals for 2 days, the estimated total is $80,000. There are other meals (not jerk) that the Jerk Fest visitors ate while in South Florida for the Jerk Fest. Conservatively estimating 4 other meals at $10 each. The estimated five thousand out-of-town guests spent $200,000. Also, it is difficult to find anyone who visits South Florida without capitalizing on our great shopping deals. In this case the estimate is $50/visitor on shopping, leading to a total $250,000.
Summing it all up, this increasingly successful annual event conservatively contributes $2.0 million. Allowing for estimation errors of 12.5%, this leads to the proposed $1.75 – $2.25 million range.
Again, congratulations and thanks to organizers Mr. Eddy Edwards, Mr. Sidney Roberts and the rest of the South Florida Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival for initiating and maintaining such a socio-economically enriching event in our community.
(Please note that this is largely an independent calculation based on the observations of the South Florida Caribbean Business Magazine investigative research team.)