They were working with a new site and a new date this year, so organizers of Maple Ridge’s Caribbean Festival were relieved when the crowds returned to the 15th annual event.
“Generally, I think we totally exceeded our expectations,” said committee chairman Deddy Geese.
The crowds came back for jerk chicken, curried goat, steel drums and Bob Marley classics. The new location at the Albion Fairgrounds this year created more room for vendors, room for a larger Marley main stage, and lots of space for festival goers to spread blankets on the grass.
Geese said at about 6 p.m. on Saturday the crowd started to swell, building until the performance by headliners Hotel California, an Eagles tribute band. He estimates there were between 4,000 and 5,000 fans for the Saturday night show.
“That is overwhelming. That is mission accomplished,” said Geese.
Throughout the weekend, he estimates about 15,000 people attended the event.
There were estimates of 18,000 having attended when the event was in the Memorial Peace Park downtown, but Geese said 15,000 is conservative, and the attendance was similar.
“It shows me that the site and the concept works,” he said.
He already has some ideas for next year, including the possibility of RV parking and camping at the site.
He has also been contacted by the Vancouver Carnival Association about the possibility of having a Caribbean Festival parade through the downtown on Saturday morning to kick off the event. It would include “your typical Brazilian, Caribbean costume groups.”
“Then we bring a component to the downtown, to liven the area up,” Geese said, adding that talks are still preliminary.
He said Saturday’s intense heat may have hindered the crowd, but the weather is always a wild card.
“You have no control over rain, or stinging heat.”
While the concert was free, parking was $2, with a portion of those funds going to sports teams who volunteered.