The World of Nations Celebration (WONC) festival 2024 took place on February 24-25 in Jacksonville, Florida, USA. The city’s mayor, Donna Deegan said Jacksonville is the most diverse city in the country, and it will continue to be an inclusive city that welcomes everyone with open arms.

   The festival started with the customary Naturalization Ceremony for immigrants, where Mayor Deegan referred to a Benjamin Franklin quote: ‘The US nation does not guarantee happiness, only the pursuit of it.’

   She further stated, “We will share your pursuit. Thank you for your courage, thank you for choosing Jacksonville….”


The festival began in 1993, and Jacksonville is said to offer the world an opportunity to see the spread of diverse international communities that live as one. The festival’s organisers’ message:

“Travelling around the world in a day is so much easier during the World of Nations Celebrations.”

   The release also stated, the festival attracts approximately 75,000 visitors who enjoy an experience of cuisine, artistry and customs from lands near and far – an experience of the globe.


During the festival, flags are paraded; also draped overhead on the main stage, countries’ official language is spoken by at least one individual, native foods of the nations are served, traditional music is played, and style of dances, cultural stories, costumes/clothing and artwork are exhibited. There are also education segments.

Many T&T immigrants pursued happiness and chose Jacksonville. From the very-early stages of the festival to the late 2010s, Theo Jack spearheaded the T&T production, with successive hands having tweaked it somewhat. Last year St. Vincent-T&T-lineage Christopher Charles took the reins; viewed it as a dip in the ocean; navigated throughout the year, but, despite weak support and some challenges, reports this year indicate that the production stepped up a bit.

Flag bearer for the T&T nation, keynote address facilitator and educator on T&T at the World of Nations Celebration (WONC) festival 2024, Christopher "Chris" John, delivering an address from the T&T booth.

Team T&T 2024:


Apart from Christopher Charles, the T&T team comprised, in part: Anna-Maria Charles, Christopher “Chris” John, Maxine Esdell, Sharon Saunders, Natalie Mills, Ruthvel Harris Jr, DJ Lion Heart, and Wendell Chase (T&T-based) who arrived on February 23 with T&T caps, key chains and Marvin Gaye hats on tow, and returned to T&T on March 3.


Chase’s items were included among those that were supplied by Chistopher and Anna-Maria Charles. Apart from John being keynote speaker and educator on T&T, he was flag bearer. He paraded the flag on and in front of the main stage and around the grounds in front of each nation’s tent.


Of the festival’s four optional categories for nations, T&T chose the food-music-education combination.

The culinary choices were prepared by Anna-Maria, Esdell, Saunders and Mills, while natural Trinbagonian beverages of sorrel, and Calypso Punch consisting of mango, pineapple, cherries, orange, Angostura Bitters and vanilla essence, were made by Christopher Charles.

Co-coordinator and co-producer of International Flag Party, Christopher "Chris" John, left, poses during the party with members of the Slay Mas Band from Jacksonville.

T&T music stirred up the crowd:


DJ LionHeart served an array of soca that inspired Anna-Maria to lead the public in a Dollar Wine frenzy, while pannist Harris Jr, nephew of one of T&T’s distinguished calypsonians, Lord Relator, offered a playlist of modern and retro soca and the two Christophers created an engine-room-type atmosphere. Knocking iron got visitors wining down to the ground, children jumping, with those new to the T&T culture, left mesmerized by the entire vibe.


The crowd called for more!


John’s presentation, The History and Culture of Trinidad and Tobago, opened with David Rudder’s Trini to de Bone. It painted a full mural of T&T, historically to present, spread over 12-15-minute segments done over the weekend in-between 90-minute intervals.


In the end, he thanked everyone for taking the historical journey to his beautiful, dynamic, unique and exhilarating island of T&T, and extended an invitation: “You are welcome to visit the paradise.”


Subsequently, John said he was thrilled and excited to have spoken about his beautiful country and the late great first PM, Dr Eric Williams, who was his hero.


While T&T created a stir, Charles said wider elements of T&T culture would be included next year moving forward.


The T&T response:


In honouring the crowd’s request for more T&T warm and ‘free-up’ vibe, chiefly coordinated and produced by the Christophers: John and Charles, on March 16 at Allusion’s Restaurant & Lounge, 5045 Soutel Drive, Jacksonville, Fl., Ibis’ CsquaredI held an event titled, International Flag Party, where not only were flags waved, but worn and decorated tables.


Music was supplied by Djs LionHead and Kid Rebel.


For this first installment, countries represented were Barbados, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, USA and host T&T, and members of Slay Mas Band from Jacksonville were also in attendance.


Foundation to be formed:

Arising out of the impressive feedback received from visitors and other nations, and the need to showcase T&T at the highest level, the establishing of a not-for-profit T&T Cultural Association is being considered, with John targeted to prepare the draft paper.


To assist the team or help bring the potential Association to fruition, please call or message: 904.735.5511 or 817.372.7401.