"Our festival is authentic, and they like being a part of it," said Jennifer Fowler, executive director of The District.
The tourism board is giving away three trips to Jamaica this weekend to winners of games that will be held Friday and Saturday. (People who compete won radio call-in contests. You can also register at Jumer's Casino Rock Island.) Those giveaways, Fowler said, are a strong endorsement for Ya Maka.
The festival itself runs Friday and Saturday from noon to 12:30 a.m. and features live reggae music from 10 different bands, two musical groups featuring steel drums, 17 food vendors serving up Jamaican delicacies, an open-air marketplace, a sand-volleyball tournament, a pirate costume contest (Saturday at 2 p.m.), and a kids' creation station (Saturday from noon to 6 p.m.). "It's going to be hot and sunny," predicted Fowler, "just like a trip to the island."
Ya Maka My Weekend is, with Gumbo Ya Ya, the best-attended festival in The District, drawing roughly 15,000 people over its two days.
The festival often strives to have steel-drum bands visit, but they're not always available. This year will feature a pair of steel-drum bands on Fountain Stage on Saturday. I-PAN, a five-member band from the University of Illinois, performs from 3 to 6 p.m., while Exu (featuring steel drums, bass, guitar, and a drummer) hails from Joilet and will play from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.
The music is one element that distinguishes Ya Maka from other festivals, Fowler said. The nature of reggae music means the atmosphere is more relaxed. "It's such happy and easy-going music," she said.
Food vendors for the first time will also compete for the title of best Jamaican dish. As an added attraction, most of the food vendors either hail from The District or elsewhere in the Quad Cities.
Unlike in previous years, Ya Maka will not start on Thursday. Instead, RIBCO will be hosting a free concert that night featuring Yabba Griffiths & Traxx, starting at 10 p.m. Although the festival has historically begun on Thursday, "we weren't getting enough people" on that day, Fowler said.
Admission to Ya Maka My Weekend is $7 for adults, with children 12 and under admitted free. Admission between noon and 5 p.m. is $5. For more information, call (309)788-6311 or visit (http://www.ridistrict.com).
Friday, August 9
Immunity (6 p.m.)
Aswah Greggori (8 p.m.)
The Ark Band (10 p.m.)
New Flavor (noon)
Yabba Griffiths & Traxx (2 p.m.)
Roots Rock Society (5 p.m.)
King Solomon (7 p.m.)
Shangoya (9 p.m.)
Natty Nation (11 p.m.)
Saturday, August 10
New Flavor (2 p.m.)
Natty Nation (4 p.m.)
King Solomon (7 p.m.)
Yabba Griffiths & Traxx (10 p.m.)
Mr. Meyers (noon)
Aswah Greggori (3 p.m.)
Shangoya (6 p.m.)
The Ark Band (9 p.m.)
Immunity (11 p.m.)