BELLE GLADE — The Black Gold Jubilee featured so many attractions this year that it kept people streaming onto Torry Island all day Saturday, April 6, even as twilight fell.
There seemed to be a hundred booths with civic organizations, contests, exhibitors, games, raffles, even a green market and so many vendors with aromatic, enticing food and everything else under the sun for sale. At every one, they were happy to tell their stories to people wandering the festival grounds at the city’s Torry Island Campground & Marina, where sits the Lomax Harrelle Pavilion along the Lake Okeechobee waterfront.
There were actually around 75 vendors, according to city officials, with so much participation from the Glades area communities that they ran out of space for any more before the sign-up deadline and were turning them away.
Said Deputy City Manager Beverly Scott, “We are looking at how to expand it next year.”
Stories from the jubilee
Connie Deaton was with her mom, Linda McMillan, selling T-shirts and other items at the booth for the Jimmy McMillan memorial fishing tournament, which will take place on Saturday, May 11, out of the Belle Glade marina.
The late Mr. McMillan owned a grocery store in Belle Glade and was robbed and murdered on Jan. 2, 2012.
“Fishing was his life, and so we started the tournament as a way of remembering him and bringing people together. We established a scholarship in his name at the high school that he graduated from, Glades Day School, so all the proceeds from this go directly to students there,” she said.
“There’s an essay that they write and we’ve given almost $30,000 in scholarships over seven years. The fishing day is all about the fishermen. Two of Jimmy’s three sons are also professional fishermen. They travel the circuit.”
Breezy McMillan, who started the Anglers for Lake O lobbying group with Martin Marina (Clewiston) General Manager Ramon Iglesias last fall, is her cousin, said Connie, and another generation is getting in the game already.
Glades Lives Matter
Jennifer Jean was at the Glades Lives Matter booth selling T-shirts and totes to benefit their scholarship fund.
“We (help with things) that you need to face in order to make a change locally, but how it takes place is in Tallahassee. We attend health fairs and events like this, just trying to raise awareness about the Glades area and why we want to make sure it stays intact.”
Tom and Traci Rose of Port St. Lucie were there selling her homemade concoctions of herb-glazed, roasted nuts that she makes herself starting with raw materials. Many types were available and they were giving out free samples to everyone who approached, as well as selling bags and jars full.
They call their business T’s Taste of Chicago Gourmet Glazed Nuts, named after a catering business she’d operated for years in Michigan. She grew up in Warrenville, Ill., but the couple are originally from the Upper Peninsula.
Said Mrs. Rose: “In Michigan, I had a food vending business called T’s Taste of Chicago, because I lived in the Chicago area and I enjoyed their food, so I wanted to sell it elsewhere.” She grew up in Warrenville, near Naperville. They’ve been going to Black Gold for a couple of years.
“I order them in bulk and I get them from different places, but mostly from California and Texas. I buy them raw and then I coat them all. The recipes all come from me, from my mind. I just think of something, and then I concoct and I’ll make it until I think it tastes good.” Their gourmet glazed nuts were irresistible, of course (says the satisfied snacker who bought the Blueberry Glazed Pecans).
Ice-cold smashed lemonade
Dianne Smith and her fiancé Mike Angelastri from Boca Raton were not far away at their Fresh Smashed Lemonade booth. They said they take it to various festivals on many weekends of the year, as both have full-time jobs, and it’s worked well for them. Not only are the beverages delicious, but in working together they’ve grown on each other, too; Dianne and Mike’s wedding is set for May 26.
Lamar Weathers was in the pavilion checking in entries to the Corn & Sweets Contest. “This booth and contest are actually put on by the Black Gold Jubilee Committee, but it is sponsored, and the three companies sponsoring it are listed on the sign. It takes at every jubilee; we do a first, second and third place. And it’s not subjective. We have forms that we use.
They’re graded on the look of it, how’s the texture, how’s the taste, and they rate it and we add up the points.
“This is my third year of doing it, and it’s been very successful every year. Last year we had over 20 entries in each of the two categories, corn and sweets, and they can enter as many as they want. There are judges, we usually have five; and they award five points for the best in each category. The nice thing is the way our numbering system works, so it’s not a raising of hands or something,” Mr. Weathers said. Makes for a more fair contest, and no one gets their feathers ruffled.
Belle Glade City Manager Lomax Harrelle and Deputy City Manager Beverly Scott were greeting people at the waterfront pavilion bearing his name as contest entries were trickling in, and later were seen tooling around the grounds and interacting with the crowds in a city golf cart. City staff members manned a booth elsewhere at the festival, where they were having folks spin a wheel for swag prizes they were giving away.
Both officials said it had been a very successful day already so far, but it was still early, and stragglers from the Black Gold Jubilee Parade that had taken place downtown at 10 a.m. were just starting to converge en masse at the Torry Island Marina & Campground as the free entertainment began at the band shell. Two concerts at the Lakeside Amphitheater closed out the day’s activities. At 5:30 p.m., Night Moves (The Ultimate Bob Seger Tribute Band) took the stage, and at 7:30 p.m., Kentucky-born country music crooner John Michael Montgomery followed.
Traffic and crowd control were being handled efficiently by deputies out of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office District 13/City of Belle Glade substation. Along the water’s edge on the road leading to the park was Captain Steve and his crew from MasterGator Airboat Tours of Palm Beach County, offering rides for $25 a person and doing a brisk business.
Chris Felker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.