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Social media frenzy helps Jamaica street festival thrive

Social media frenzy helps Jamaica street festival thrive
By Joe Anuta

Organizers of the 17th annual Jamaica Arts and Music Summer Festival spread the word through Facebook, Twitter and Yelp this year, which helped make the event bigger and better than ever.

The annual street festival kicked off Friday night at Rufus King Park and was buzzing until Saturday evening along Jamaica Avenue between Parsons Boulevard and 169th Street.

“More people come each and every year,” said Tyra Emerson, of Cultural Collaborative Jamaica, the nonprofit that puts on the event, which TimesLedger Newspapers helped sponsor. “We really embraced social media this time.”

The mammoth street fair and music stage serves several functions for the neighborhood, according to Emerson.

Thousands descend on the commercial corridor for the daylong event, which brings an economic boost along with the crowds. But those shoppers are also exposed to the rich supply of performers coming out of the neighborhood, according to numerous performers.

“Jamaica has always been known and always will be known for good artists,” said DJ Tam Jams, who spun between bands at the festival’s main stage. “It is important to cultivate that talent and put it on display. This is our next crop of stars.”

Local acts like South Side Band regaled dancers, including a man with a pipe who struts his stuff each year, to R&B and blues sounds.

Groups of children between the ages of 5 and 8 showed off their musical skills as part of a program run by The African Poetry Theatre, which gives music lessons, according to Emerson.

One of the more unique acts was performed several feet in the air.

Jason Edwards originally hails from Trinidad and Tobago, where stilt-walking performances are a common sight at the island’s vibrant carnival celebrations each year.

“It brings joy to people as part of the culture, but it also gets kids off of the streets,” he said of his Queens-based company Kaisokah Moko Jumbies U.S.A.

Elsewhere along the avenue, the smell of grilled meats and corn hung constantly in the air as other merchants hawked jewelry and paintings.

Another act called the All R Nuttin Family brought their Caribbean-inspired sound to southeast Queens. The Connecticut five-piece rap outfit is originally from the island of Jamaica, and members use their microphones to preach positive messages to the masses.

“It’s been a wonderful chance for outsiders to come and see what they are doing in Queens,” said member Danny Peeces.

Several politicians, including the two scandal-scarred hopefuls running in citywide races — Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer — pressed the flesh along the busy avenue.

Organizers were initially worried about a soggy forecast, but in the end the day was another successful notch in the neighborhood’s belt.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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