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A Taste of the island

news ALISON SIDLO staff photographer
Jeana Logsdon, left, of Kansas City, Mo., dances with Reel Ting bassist Leslie Baptist while James Graham plays the steel drums during a set at Conchy Joe's Seafood Restaurant in Jensen Beach. The band will perform today at the Caribbean Carnival at Memorial park in Stuart.

Carnival brings Caribbean to Stuart
By Bill DeYoung staff writer
April 24, 2004

Hop in the boat, toot on a conch shell and enjoy the island ride.

Memorial Park in downtown Stuart opens for a Caribbean Carnival today - with music, food, arts and crafts and more, all with a tropical flavor.

The 10 a.m.- to-5 p.m. bash is a benefit for the American Cancer Society.

"Why we're so excited about this event is because it is a multicultural event," says Stuart attorney Maria Sperando, who's putting everything together.

"Normally, you go to an art festival, it's almost exclusively white. This is going to be open to white folk, black folk, Caribbean folk ... everybody is coming together. That's what this is about, for everybody to come together and have a good time.

"And have the added benefit of contributing to the ACS. This is what we call a win-win situation, because you cannot come to this party and not have a good time. It just won't be possible."

Sperando is an attorney with Willie Gary's law firm, a longtime contributor to the cancer society's annual Relay For Life.

This year, Sperando - herself a breast cancer survivor - wanted to do something a little ... festive, a celebration of life.

"I had the breast cancer; I managed to get through it - other people have got to get through it. And that's what this is all about."

As more contributors came aboard, the event grew exponentially.

"Initially, it was supposed to be a Caribbean food cookoff and a little bit of music, like a little CD player," she says. "Now, all of a sudden, I need toilets. Can you believe it?"

The carnival will have a 30-booth arts and crafts section, Bahamian and Jamaican food and Caribbean drinks, an extensive children's area, wildlife demonstrations, rides and contests.

The three-piece reggae band, Rain, will provide the music, along with its expanded version, known as The Reel Ting, the resident band at Conchy Joe's in Jensen Beach.

And there will be an auction of items such as a $1,900 tiki hut, Caribbean vacations and a big-screen plasma television.

All the items were donated for the cause.

"I'm stunned by the generosity of people," Sperando says. "It's been really extraordinary."