Thousands flock to ‘Only in Queens’ festival

By Mark Hallum

Borough President Melinda Katz and NYC Parks hosted the annual Only in Queens Summer Festival Sunday, involving a rare public tour of the New York State Pavilion followed by the SummerStage concert in Flushing Meadows. Among the performers at the SummerStage event were East Elmhurst-born hip-hop artists Kid N’ Play, singer/actor Tristan “Mack” Wilds, and R&B singer Ginuwine.

The festival drew about 4,000 people.

Katz allocated about $12 million to the project to renovate the Pavilion with help from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. According to Katz, the iconic structure from the 1964 World’s Fair is getting a fresh coat of paint in a shade of yellow known as “American Cheese” by Benjamin Moore, new flooring, elaborate lighting and a structural reinforcement. The Pavilion, which has not been in use since the early 1990s, holds historical significance to Queens for the bands who played there, such as Led Zeppelin.

Katz envisions the Pavilion once again being utilized for open-air performances.

“At night, when you drive past here, you can see the Queens Museum all lit up; you can see the Unisphere, which is beautiful, all lit up; and within a year you will see the New York State Pavilion lit up,” Katz said.

According to Salmaan Khan from People for the Pavilion, a group devoted to the project that works closely with Katz and the National Trust, the modern design of the structure is making a style comeback, and with it a shift toward preserving mid-century landmarks in Queens.

“The word that comes up often is ‘iconic,’” Khan said,pointing out that the Pavilion was nearly always included in photographs meant to capture the atmosphere of Queens.

The renovation project is expected to be finished within a year.

The event featured food vendors and tents selling goods from various businesses in Queens. Kimchi Smoke offered Korean BBQ, while Kati Roll Shack brought South Asian street food. Bayside Lemonade came out with its stand to serve fresh squeezed juice and like every good outdoor summer event, there was a henna tattoo stand by Mesmerizing Kreativity.

As 4 p.m. rolled around, Katz made an appearance on the stage to officially kick off the SummerStage concert event.

Kid N’ Play were the first artists on stage, and performed classics that launched them into fame in the late ‘80s. Best known for the 1990 film “House Party,” the duo was familiar to many at the free event. The two started in East Elmhurst in competing groups until they came together to perform, moving up the MTV ladder of success.

Tristan “Mack” Wilds followed the legendary two-man group. Mack is known for his song writing as well as his roles on the HBO series “The Wire” and the CW’s “90210.”

R&B singer Ginuwine closed the show by playing some of his hits in keeping with the ‘90s sound which defined Sunday’s SummerStage event.

Funding for the event came from Delta Airlines and the Flushing Meadows Corona Park Improvement Fund, among others.

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.