WORCESTER — With jewels dripping from her head to her chest and an outfit perfect for dancing in the parade, Kay Moore, 28, said she was ready to dance, eat and have a good time at the 10th annual Worcester Caribbean American Carnival on Sunday.
Having spent the previous day at Boston’s Caribbean Carnival, where eight people were shot and injured, Moore said she wasn’t going to let the violence ruin her day, especially since the Worcester carnival is one of her favorites.
“There’s going to be violence every day,” she said. “One person isn’t going to ruin everything.”
She said she likes coming to Worcester because the parade has a better route and the community is more interactive and attentive.
Moore was with her friend, Jackie Massey, 47, and Massey’s niece, Liyah Vann-Lites, 15. The trio were part of a group dancing to Soca music during the parade, which took marchers from Main Street down to Institute Park on Salisbury Street, where the carnival’s festivities were taking place.
Double shooting shuts down event in Worcester
Jennifer Gaskin, the lead organizer of the event who works in the health care industry and is also president of the Worcester Caribbean American Carnival Association, said the violence in Boston was unfortunate.
She said she hoped that due to the Worcester community being heavily involved with planning and organizing the event, it would all go smoothly.
But later in the evening, the Worcester event was shut down due to a double shooting that resulted in two male victims being transported to a hospital with apparently non-life-threatening injuries.
Before shooting, a festive atmosphere
Earlier in the afternoon, Gaskin said she was excited about this year’s event, not just because it was the 10th anniversary, but because it began to resemble its pre-pandemic form.
Gaskin was particularly excited to see all of the different costumes people would be wearing for the day.
At Institute Park, food and drink options lined the sidewalks and lawn, giving carnival-goers a plethora of choices.
Many of the vendors donned a Caribbean country’s flag, including those of Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Jamaica, Dominican Republic and Haiti.
Near the center of the festival on the lawn was space for people to gather and dance to the music blasting from speakers on a stage.
Khiary Gray, 30, and his son, Tyronn, 11, were most looking forward to trying the different food options around them. Gray, who was also with his daughter, Khileena, 6, and wife, Nash Morales, 30, said he looks forward to attending the event each year.
Morales said her favorite part of the event was watching the parade and getting to see all of the different cultures being represented.
Tyronn and Khileena said they were excited to have an event like the carnival to celebrate before heading back to school next week.
Across the street from Institute Park, next to the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house painted a rock with an outline of Caribbean countries and a message: “Phi Gamma Delta Celebrates Caribbean American Carnival 2023.”
Joe Martin, a graduate student at the university, said it was something he began to look forward to annually after living across the street from the event for several years.
“It’s definitely cool. I like coming every year,” Martin said. “I like the food and the people are nice.”
John Diamond, a sophomore at the school who just moved into the house, said the event was exciting and that he was happy with the food he already tried and was looking forward to making his way over again and trying more.
Day to celebrate culture
For some, the carnival is not just a day to celebrate Caribbean culture. For Anthony Mishihu, it is an opportunity to celebrate African culture as well.
“It’s the same culture,” he said. “These are my people.”
Mishihu, who lives in Worcester in the summer and Ghana the rest of the year, was selling handmade beaded masks, drums, jewelry and bags.
One of the best parts, he said, is being able to “bring Africa to them,” with his items each year. Not just in Worcester, but in other cities as well, such as Lowell.
He also looks forward to teaching customers about the handmade items, especially the drums. Kids are usually attracted to his stand, looking to get a drum lesson, to which Mishihu will happily oblige.
Time with family
For Maggie Gibson, Mishihu’s wife, and their kids Nassir and Selasey, it was also a day to celebrate spending time with family.
“I like it because it’s a family-friendly event and it shows a variety of cultures,” Gibson said. “It’s great the city can see it.”
Nassir, who begins fifth grade this year, said that while the event was fun, it could get a little boring sitting in the tent all day while his parents work. But he still prefers it to going back to school next week.
Selasey said she was going to miss summer and was excited to have something fun to do before it was over, but was excited to get back in school.
Beautiful and diverse
Although there were plenty of options for Caribbean food at the event, there were other options as well. Barbie White, a food vendor, was selling West African food like meat pies and jollof rice.
White, who is Liberian, said she enjoyed attending Caribbean carnivals because of the different people she gets to meet.
“It’s beautiful and diverse,” White said.
Despite having experienced some issues with the city this year while trying to organize the event — something that Gaskin said has persisted over the years, she is going to continue to try to be a “good partner” to the city because she wants the event to continue years from now.
“It shows how important it is to have this event,” Gaskin said. “And reinforce that importance each year.”