By Karen Frantz
The Jamaica Arts and Music Summer Festival, a celebration of Queens’ cultural diversity and one of the largest summer festivals in the borough, will return to Jamaica this weekend.
The festival, now in its 16th year, will be in the format of the iconic variety show “Soul Train” and pay homage to popular musicians who have recently died, including Whitney Houston, Heavy D and Gil Scott-Heron.
It kicks off Friday night with JAMS Under the Stars at Rufus King Park, at Jamaica Avenue and 153rd Street, and will culminate Saturday with the JAMS open-air street festival along Jamaica Avenue between Parsons Boulevard and 169th Street.
Tyra Emerson, chairwoman of the JAMS Planning Committee, which is organizing the event, said the festival will have an “eclectic, exciting lineup” of local and global talent.
Friday’s JAMS Under the Stars will feature musicians such as Robbie Nova, an R&B artist from Queens; spoken word performer Casel Lee, also known as The Verbal Artisan; and the 6-year-old Haitian prodigy Malachi.
There will also be a “Soul Train” line Friday, Emerson said.
“Anyone who’s feeling they need to get their funky clothes out of the closet and wear them, that’s fine,” she said.
On Saturday, Emerson said the “Soul Train” tribute will kick off the morning, followed by world music in the afternoon. The day will also include Zumba at 11:30 a.m., led by the Jamaica YMCA; performances by artists, including the Srijan Dance Center, the musical group Ziggy Bless, and stilt walkers.
Between 350 and 400 vendors will also be at the festival, many of them local and ranging from shops to food carts, Emerson said.
One highlight of both Friday and Saturday will be Love TV, a traveling Australian production that tours various festivals and other events. Audience members are interviewed about their love lives or other passions, and the interviews are broadcast live on screens at the events.
Emerson said Love TV will be interviewing people at the JAMS festival Friday and Saturday. Emerson said she expects a good turnout at the festival this year, with about 150,000 people over the two days.
“Each year it keeps getting bigger and bigger. It’s amazing,” she said.
She said a planning committee of several nonprofits work to put on the festival each year, which she said helps bolster Jamaica’s economy.
“People don’t see art as economic development, too, but it is,” she said.
JAMS Under the Stars will take place Friday night between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m., and the JAMS Festival will take place Saturday between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m.
Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4538.