From wine to Jerkfest to Hops in Hills and Hops on Top, Central Vermont is a food and drink festival destination

Third  World

With so many events featuring wine, beer and food tastings along with music and fun activities, Vermont’s becoming a summer festival destination. On the heels of the Killington Wine Festival that took place July 17-19 comes Jerkfest this weekend (also in Killington); Hops on Top in Rutland, Aug. 4; Hops in Hills next weekend at Okemo; and Winter in August in Rutland, Aug. 11. The expansion of the food and drink festivals creates a nice synergy with the adventure centers that Killington and Okemo have developed and provides added draws to the region.

“Vermont ski and snowboard resorts have been expanding not only spring, summer and fall activities, but also events that celebrate the other great aspects of Vermont, including our craft brewery and farm-to-table dining scene,” said Sarah Wojcik of Ski Vermont. “The ties between the ski resorts and the farm, food and beverage industries in Vermont have always been strong and it’s exciting to see the expansion of these types of events.”

One of the newest food and beverage festivals takes place this weekend in Killington.

The first-ever Vermont JerkFest & Reggae Festival is being hosted by Killington Resort as part of its commitment “to bringing new energy to the area during the summer months,” said Mike Solimano, president and general manager of Killington Resort. “With live music, local food, a festival atmosphere and a focus on sustainability, this event is a perfect fit for Killington and we are pleased to have partnered with the Town in bringing the festival to the area,” he added.

Vermont Jerkfest and Reggae Festival

“The demand for specialty food and craft brews around the resort has been clear and growing, and the continued success of our annual Wine Festival and Brewfest made adding another food and drink festival a priority of ours for this summer,” noted Killington spokesman Michael Joseph.

The First Annual Vermont Jerkfest and Reggae Festival runs this Friday and Saturday (July 31-Aug.1) and is a celebration of Jamaican jerk food, spicy food, and Caribbean-themed libations from local and regional chefs and food producers. Jerk is the specialty cuisine of Jamaica that is not only mouth-burning hot but also includes delicious blends of aromatic spices to wake up all your senses, explained Nusheen Orandi, marketing coordinator for the Williams Agency, which is producing Vermont Jerkfest in collaboration with Jamaica Awareness. Their team organizes some of the top food, ethnic, and local food festivals in the country, she noted.

The JerkFest begins on Friday evening in the K-1 Base Lodge with a Rum and Brew tasting (7-10 p.m.) for the 21-and-over crowd. The event features unlimited tastings of rum, local craft beer, hard cider, mead, artisan brews, a variety of Caribbean themed libations, and spicy food. There will be a cocktail demonstration and DJ Natty Kool and Mamadou will entertain, Orandi said.

The Saturday festivities run noon to 7 p.m. at the K-1 Base Area (outdoors) and include authentic Caribbean food made by regional chefs, traditional Caribbean drinks, and live music. A Spice Lane will showcase local specialty products — ranging from hot sauces and cheeses to desserts like rum cakes and ice cream — which are being offered by a variety of vendors from around New England, Orandi said.

A highlight will be the Seafood Throwdown competition where freshly caught fish will be provided to the chefs to create dishes. Judges will come from the local community and event attendees. There will also be chef demos featuring jerk and highlighting local food and a jerk cook-off competition, Orandi noted.

A children’s cultural activity area will feature the opportunity for kids to make their own musical shakers and then play them with the Tempo International Steel Band, which uses its creativity to make upbeat music out of garbage cans and pans!

Music Galore

The international headline band is Third World, a reggae band with 10 Grammy nominations and hits spanning four decades. Other artists who will play on Saturday include: JAH-N-I Roots Band, Ras Tukura, Satta Sound featuring Lady Lee and Shanti Starr, DJ Natty Kool, the Tempo International Steel Band, and Joey Leone, for a huge variety of vintage and local reggae, world music, roots, blues, and more.

The party continues with Jerk Jam, which was coordinated locally. It takes place at nearby businesses with tasting dinners, music, and special promotions offered at: the Art Garage, Birch Ridge Inn, Charity’s Restaurant, Chef Claude’s Choices, Domenic’s, the Foundry at Summit Pond, Killington Market, Liquid Art, Lookout Tavern, Peppino’s Ristorante Italiano, Inn at Long Trail, and the Vermont Inn in nearby Mendon.

For tickets and information, please visit vermontjerkfest.com

Hops on Top, Aug. 4

At Rutland’s first annual craft and microbrew festival, Hops on Top, suds lovers will sip samples and snacks while Joey Leone performs for the 21-and-over crowd on the top floor of the LAZ parking deck overlooking historic Downtown Rutland. The event is Tuesday, Aug. 4, 5:30-8:30 p.m. Admission is $25 and includes eight 4-oz. samples and snacks. Live music by Joey Leone from 6–8 p.m.

Hops in the Hills, Aug. 7-9

Okemo Mountain Resort’s annual Hops in the Hills has expanded over the years and grown to a three-day festival with music and a variety of activities, spokeswoman Bonnie MacPherson said.

Vermont has become a “big beer destination,” she said, noting the synergy between the growth of the state’s craft breweries—they’ve about doubled since 2011 to 40 today—and the many tours and tastings that are offered and the increasing popularity of brewfests.

Two weeks before the Hops in the Hills event, lodgings were 60 percent booked she said, noting festivals provide good summer business for mountain resorts.

Winter In August, Aug. 11

Can’t wait till winter? Come celebrate the ski industry at the Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce’s 34th Annual Winter In August Celebration on Tuesday, Aug. 11 from 5–8 p.m. This Chamber fundraiser and show of appreciation to the ski industry will be back on Merchants Row in downtown Rutland again this year. Winter In August will be a street party like last year and take place right outside the Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce, 50 Merchants Row.

By Karen D. Lorentz

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