DELRAY BEACH — A 10-year-old celebration of Haitian-American heritage has been transformed to include more Caribbean cultures, organizers say.

Started as a way to celebrate Haitian Flag Day, which is Sunday this year, the festival has now evolved to include all residents of southwest Delray Beach, a strong Haitian and Caribbean community.

“We realized that the festival over the years was too narrow in focus,” said event organizer Joesph Bernadel and co-founder of Toussaint L’Ouverture High School for Arts & Social Justice. “We wanted to include our brothers and sisters from other parts of the Caribbean.”

Bernadel renamed the festival “La Siren,” which means mermaid in Creole, after a mythological sea creature who acted as either a protector of slaves crossing the treacherous Atlantic or a mediator for the souls who died during the crossing. The festival takes place at the Delray Beach Tennis Center, 201 W. Atlantic Ave., from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., May 17.

The event is the culmination of a vision to bring the people of South Florida together, building bridges and observing diversity through Afro-Caribbean art, dance, music and food, Bernadel said. Bernadel is of Haitian descent and a community activist. He serves a commissioner on the Delray Beach Community Redevelopment Agency.

 “We’re offering the entire family a wonderful day filled with food, great music, great performances and the chance to experience the richness of the cultural fabric that makes up our community,” said Bernadel, a retire major in the U.S. Army.

Vendors and exhibitors will sell and display arts and crafts, jewelry, electronics, literature and food from the regions. In addition, there will be live concerts, a children’s play area, and many more fun and exciting activities. A highlight, according to organizers, is Haitian orator Lucrece Louisdhon, who will tell stories.

Among the attractions will be a headdress contest, where local organizations and schools will vie for a $500 grand prize for making Caribbean-inspired headdresses. Organizers plan for the contest to serve as a catalyst for highlighting artistic expression and teaching about multicultural strengths and differences in Palm Beach County.

“We are hoping people will come out and experience the spectrum of diversity as represented by our many vendors and, of course, the great performers … participating in this year’s festival,” Bernadel said.


WHAT: La Siren Caribbean cultural festival
11 a.m.-6 p.m., May 17
WHERE: Delray Beach Tennis Center, 201 W. Atlantic Ave.
INFORMATION: or call 561-496-2457 or 732-859-2134