Saturday, July 29, 2000

Concert, celebration create 'cultural event of the year'

Festival begins its three-day run

By Kristina Goetz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

(Craig Ruttle photo)
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        Fountain Square was the place to see and be seen Friday night.

        As vendors set up booths to sell their wares, tens of thousands of festivalgoers convened on downtown Cincinnati for the kickoff of the three-day Ujima Cinci-bration and the 38th annual 2000 Coors Light Festival.

        Women and men in high-dollar hats and suits arrived at Cinergy Field to see concert performers including Eric Benet, Erykah Badu, and D'Angelo. Many gathered outside the stadium chatting with friends and listening to recorded music before the 8 p.m. show.

        “Beautiful people, beautiful music, beautiful times,” said Timothy House, a Newark, N.J., police officer who drove 740 miles.

Street closings
  • When: 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
  • Where: Cinergy Field.
  • Tickets: Friday and Saturday $50, $35 and $25; Sunday, $35 and $25. Available from Ticketmaster outlets (562-4949) and the Cinergy box office.
  • The schedule: (in order of appearance)
  Friday — Terry Dexter, the Midnight Star reunion, Eric Benet, Erykah Badu, D'Angelo.
  Saturday — Ohio Players reunion, Sisqo, Frankie Beverly & Maze, Patti LaBelle, the Temptations.
  Sunday — P. Ann Everson-Price & her All-Star Band, Boney James, the Whispers, Gerald Levert, Chaka Khan.
        Others complained about traffic congestion and construction.

        “They knew about the festival,” said Ahmed Rajab, also of Newark, N.J. “They should have worked around the schedule for at least one night.”

        But the traffic didn't stop the blocked-off streets around Fountain Square from filling with festivalgoers. And neither did the stormy skies that poured briefly early Friday evening. Vendors sold handbags, jewelry, arts, crafts and all manner of food.

        Ujima was created to complement the annual festival. The Coors festival drew many people downtown who lacked the tickets or desire to get into the stadium for the concerts.

        Now, the combined events offer the best of African-American culture, organizers say.

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        In a powder blue Stacy Adams suit, Tyrone Hall of Avondale stood on the square talking to his wife and friends before the concert.

        “My wife picked it out for me,” the Avondale man said with a smile. “She picked out the shoes, too.”

        John A. Smith of Silverton, a candidate for state representative for House District 36, volunteered to be a diplomat for the festival, helping visitors find their way.

        “This seems to be the center of it,” he said, pointing to the booths. “It's where people come to congregate, to see and be seen.

        “It's a dressed-up family reunion, a sightseeing family reunion. We've got all sizes and all shapes.

        “It is the cultural event of the year.”

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