The best of Stepping High

Observer senior writer

Friday, March 09, 2018

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Organisers of Stepping High Festival in Negril have described last weekend's 15th anniversary show as its most successful.

In addition to live performances and workshops, spokesperson Khimaja Connell said the two-day event attracted ganja and reggae fans from South America, proof of its growing appeal.

“It truly exceeded our expectations. We were pleased with the level of support we got from local and international patrons, and the positive reviews about the great vibe of the festival,” Connell told Splash. “There were a lot of guests from Chile, Brazil and Argentina in particular. We are especially happy to have been able to deliver the underground experience; it was equally as humbling as it was prideful to have been able to share that experience with the public,” she added.

The “underground experience” was a nod to the festival's early years. It took place on March 2 (opening day) on Negril's famed West End, while the second night took place at Cayenne Beach and had 2,000 patrons.

Negril's West End is where seeds for Stepping High Festival were planted in 2003 by Lyndon Connell, Connell's father.

The elder Connell, who is from Westmoreland, started Stepping High Festival to expose the medicinal and economic benefits of ganja. He expanded its platform in 2015 when the Jamaican Government mulled legislation to decriminalise the plant.

That expansion, his daughter noted, was reflected in this year's enthusiastic turnout.

“The level of attendance was an indication of how interested people are in this type of event. Festivals, particularly wellness festivals, are popular in Europe, but in Jamaica we are more familiar with stage shows and reggae festivals which run for a shorter period of time and usually does not kick off until night,” she said. “Stepping High Festival is an all-day event which ends with a musical extravaganza, but most people miss the daytime activities and only get to experience the entertainment aspect.”

This year there was a fashion show, as well as performances by singers Dann-I, Yvad and Jah9. Headliners Lutan Fyah and Capleton did not take the stage due to “technical difficulties”.

Each day there were exhibits of Ital-grown ganja tested by judges based on flavour, aroma, aesthetics and THC level.

Waba from Brighton, Westmoreland, got the highest scores for his strain, dubbed 'The Twist'. Second place went to King Lawyah from House of Sensi in Orange Hill (also in Westmoreland) for his 'Blue Berry Pineapple', while placing third were Blackin and King Lawyah of Brighton and Orange Hill, respectively, for 'The Skunk'.

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