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At this multicultural spot, it’s food, flags and dance

i Aug 3rd 2017

By Mary Therese Biebel, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader

WILKES-BARRE — “We have a lot of feathers, a lot of Velcro,” Carleen Hartman said, smiling as she showed one of the fancier outfits she hopes people will wear if they join the Caribbean-style dancing in the city’s inaugural Multicultural Festival this weekend.

Hartman is selling costumes for adults and children this week at Hartman Jerk Chicken Center, the restaurant she and her husband, Garfield, own in the first block of South Main Street, where oxtail and jerk chicken are among the most popular dishes.

Of course, you’ll be able to sample their food at the festival, and the uninitiated need not worry about the level of heat.

“You can get is mild or hot,” Hartman said reassuringly.

But hot, she warns you, is very hot. “It can make your nose run and your eyes water.”

“Their food is very good,” customer Steve Jones said as he placed an order for curry goat.

“Cabbage and plantain come with every meal,” said Hartman’s niece, Christine Roberts of Kingston, who recently was working behind the counter with her sister, Jerolita Roberts.

In keeping with the Caribbean-style food the restaurant offers, Hartman also is selling flags of several Caribbean nations, including Jamaica, Haiti, Barbados, and Guyana.

Hartman said she welcomes any interested dancers to join the informal group the restaurant is sponsoring, which she expects will dance its way toward Public Square in the parade on Saturday and perform again on the Square later that day.

There won’t be complicated steps to learn, she said. You can let the rhythm of the music inspire you.

“You can dance any way you want,” she said.

If feathers and Velcro aren’t your style, she has more casual, African garments available. And if you’d like to dance representing the United States, she has a red, white and blue ensemble made of silk displayed on the restaurant wall.

“We are very happy to be in downtown Wilkes-Barre. I absolutely love it,” Hartman said, adding that she and her husband are glad to share their Caribbean culture.

“As soon as I heard about it (the festival), I was so excited,” she said. “Sign me up.”