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JAMMIN’ in JAMAICA

People will be jamming their way down to Jamaica Avenue in early August for a festival like no other.
“It’s the good feeling you get when you come here,” said Tyra Emerson, Executive Director of Cultural Collaborative Jamaica (CCJ), which hosts the event each year. “Everyone here is happy and having a good time enjoying all there is to offer.”
Now in its 11th year, the Jamaica Arts and Music Summer (JAMS) Festival attracts people by the thousands with its festive entertainment ranging from live bands to various cultural activities, to an ethnic assortment of food, and a wide selection of merchandise.
Each year the JAMS Festival attracts people from all over the city - 150,000 to be exact. Residents of Queens, out-of-towners, and even those from out of state all come together to enjoy this spectacular two-day event.
On Friday, August 3, JAMS Festival 2007 will be kicking off with a mega concert called JAMS Under the Stars at 6 p.m. in Kings Park on Jamaica Avenue between 150th and 153rd Streets. The talented artists featured that night will include Roy Ayers and Pastor Hezekiah Walker and the Praise Singers.
Most known for his talent as a jazz- and funk-playing legend - and for his appearances on Soul Train in the seventies - Ayers has won numerous awards for his contributions to music and the local community.
Pastor Hezekiah and the Praise Singers will also be adding to the evening’s festivities. As head of the prominent Brooklyn Love Fellowship Tabernacle, Walker has won two Grammy Awards as a gospel music artist with his choir, once in 1994 and again 2001.
With the music going way into the night, JAMS Under the Stars may seem like a festival unto itself, but it promises to be just a piece of what’s in store for the next day.
On Saturday, August 4, the entire stretch of Jamaica Avenue from Parsons Boulevard to 169th Street will be shut down for the main event, making room for the fun and entertainment taking place at the JAMS Festival.
Jamaica itself is a diverse, historically significant venue for culture, commerce, and living, but Saturday it will be transformed to display the multi-cultured and dynamic makeup of Queens. From 11 a.m. until 7 p.m., people of every age and background are welcomed and invited to enjoy the day’s fun.
Along the stretch of the avenue, specific blocks will feature activities for everyone.
For those attending the JAMS Festival for the first time, or who may be interested in learning about the event’s 10-year history, there will be the Memory Lane block, a photographic retrospective of the last decade of JAMS Festivals.
If you love art, there will be an Urban Folks Exhibition block featuring the craftsmanship of local artisans, and instructors who will demonstrate expert art techniques in an interactive area. There will also be the Emerging Artist Stages. Although not a block unto itself, it will be a showcase featuring local talent and works of upcoming artists.
For others looking for advice and ideas on how to relax and stay cool this summer, the Health, Wellness, and Sports block will be holding demonstrations for the public.
For people with children looking for some family fun, the JAMS Festival has designated a special area. Called Just For the Kids, the block will have carnival treats like fresh popcorn, amusing clowns, artistic face painters, balloon sculptors, and free rides.
Speaking of rides, there will also be a special block dedicated to more grown-up rides. Called Car Show, that is simply what it is. This block is said to feature tricked-out cars, choppers and motorcycles for those who appreciate an exotic ride.
In addition to these activities, there will also be a main stage - A Taste of JAMS - located on Jamaica Avenue and 164th Street. It’ll serve as a venue for live entertainment featuring local favorites, as well as some world-renowned artists.
Scheduled to perform at 12:30 p.m. will be an assortment of local and emerging entertainers.
Directly following the acts at 2:30 p.m. will be Mark Shine, a Jamaican artist whose music has been described as “reggae with an Afro-Latin beat.”
After his performance, at 4 p.m., will be the musical style of GQ, who came out with a top 20 pop hit, “Disco Nights,” and won an American Music Award.
Last but definitely not least will be Harold Melvin’s Blue Notes at 5:30 p.m. A quartet that formed over 35 years ago, they’ve performed much-loved hits such as, “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” and “The Love I Lost,” in places like Carnegie Hall and the Palladium in London.
Aside from the specialty blocks and the great music line-up on stage, the streets will be filled with a cultural mix of foods.
“As long as you’re hungry, this is the place to be,” said Emerson about the variety of cuisines offered at the festival. Everything from Jamaican dishes to vegetarian Indian fare is offered.
After eating, attendees can take a look at the wide selection of bargain goods and merchandise worth shopping for at the festival.
“We have vendors selling handmade items like the dolls and baskets found in our Urban Folks exhibition,” Emerson said. “Stores in Jamaica will also be bringing out their items to sell along with all the other vendors,” she continued.
Emerson went on to say that although all the previous JAMS Festivals have been a tremendous success each summer, this year’s has been the most difficult to plan.
“Having the Jamaica Business Improvement District not only drop out as a sponsor, but be against CCJ publicizing the JAMS Festival has made it a challenge for us,” said Emerson. In spite of that, she hopes that the turnout for this summer’s event will be just as great as last year’s, if not better.
The JAMS Festival Planning Committee has been a partnership between cultural organizations, community residents, and businesses of Queens wishing to celebrate the vitality and diversity of Jamaica and the borough.
With all in store for this year’s two-day party, the JAMS Summer Festival will not be an event to miss.

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