By Kevin Zimmerman
Once again Tyra Emerson will be stopping traffic when the 19th edition of the Jamaica Arts & Music Summer Festival hits the roadways in early August.
The borough’s premier street fair includes more than 400 vendors selling a variety of wares, who set up shop along Jamaica Avenue between Parsons Boulevard and 169th Street. Interspersed among the retailers, dozens of non-profit groups will have booths to advertise their programs and services.
Since its debut on a Saturday in 1996, JAMS has turned into one of New York City’s tourist destinations and attracts well over 185,000 visitors to check out the best of what Jamaica and the borough offers in the fields of music, food, fashion and the arts.
Emerson, executive director of Cultural Coalition Jamaica, which organizes the event, said the idea for the original fair sprang from the desire to link arts to economic development in southeast Queens.
JAMS attracts people from each of the five boroughs, the entire Tri-state region and from even as far away as Florida and Eastern Canada, who treat the event as a homecoming celebration, Emerson said.
While the street fair kicks off Saturday morning, things actually get rolling the night before with the JAMS Under the Stars concert held in Rufus King Park.
Each year the kick-off show sports a different theme. The 2012 concert was a tribute to Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson, and 2013’s was a celebration of world music. On Saturday, around a dozen musical groups will hit the Main Stage at 164th Street to perform throughout the festival.
But music is just one component of JAMS.
Because Queens and Jamaica in particular celebrate diversity, food from every corner of the globe will be available to purchase.
Capping off the family-friendly day, will be an entire city block converted into a kid-friendly zone with face painting, clowns and more.
— Kevin Zimmerman
If you go
When: Friday, Aug. 7, from 5 pm – 10 pm; and Saturday, Aug. 8, from 11 am – 7 pm
Where: Jamaica Avenue between Parsons Boulevard and 170th Street, Jamaica
Cost: Free admission