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Ya Maka My Weekend Spices Up the District PDF Print E-mail
News/Features - Feature Stories
Tuesday, 05 August 2003 18:00
When you’re already hauling in 400 tons of sand, adding another 20 to the mix is no big deal. That’s the thinking behind one of the new additions to the Ya Maka My Weekend festival this week in The District of Rock Island. The annual festival of Caribbean and Jamaican culture and reggae music will feature a 15-foot-tall sand castle built by two award-winning sculptors using 20 tons of mason sand. That sounds like a lot until you consider how much sand is trucked in for four sand-volleyball courts. The 20 tons just add one more load.

Jennifer Fowler, executive director of The District, said festival organizers wondered last year what other things they could do with sand, and this idea came up. Meredith Corson and Dan Doubleday from the Florida company Sanding Ovations will build the sculpture with a Caribbean theme. (For examples of their work, visit The duo will work on the sculpture throughout the festival.

Making a return to the festival after a several-year absence is storytelling by Shellie Moore Guy, performing with drums form 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. on Saturday. Also on the Cultural Stage will be the Dekalb Stellband Company, performing from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Friday and from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Saturday. These cultural elements, Fowler said, help make the festival more authentic. “It’s not just a typical party,” she said.

Other attractions at the festival include 17 food booths featuring Jamaican food, an open-air marketplace, a pirate costume contest for kids (Saturday at 2 p.m.), a Caribbean Kid’s Creation Station (Saturday from noon to 6 p.m.), and two stages of reggae music.

The festival will feature a few new bands this year – Soul Fyah and Flex Crew – and the return of the Reggae Cowboys. (See the Live Music section of the Reader for the complete lineup.)

Ya Maka also continues to add new giveaways to its festivities. This year, in addition to three trips to Jamaica (courtesy of the Jamaican Tourist Board – a validation of the festival’s authenticity), the festival will be handing out a quarter-carat diamond. Attendees will have the opportunity from 5 to 8:30 p.m. on Friday and noon to 8:30 p.m. on Saturday to “dig for buried treasure” and get a chance to win the prizes. Up to 300 people will be selected to compete for the prizes through a reverse drawing.

Ya Maka My Weekend, now in its 12th year, is one of The District’s two biggest festivals, competing each year with Gumbo Ya Ya. Fowler said she expects 25,000 people at Ya Maka this weekend.

But in terms of drawing from outside the community, Ya Maka doesn’t have a rival. Surveys of people who attended Gumbo Ya Ya this year showed that 2 percent of festival-goers came from outside 180 miles, and 8 percent stayed overnight because of the event. At last year’s Ya Maka My Weekend, 11 percent of people surveyed came from more than 180 miles away, and 22 percent stayed overnight because of the festival.

Fowler said that’s because there are a lot of people traveling around the country following reggae bands.

Ya Maka My Weekend starts at noon on Friday and Saturday, with live music running until 12:30 a.m. Admission to the festival is $8 after 5 p.m., but free from noon to 5 p.m. on Friday and $5 from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday. For more information, visit ( or call (309)788-6311.
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