BY YVETTE BROWN
On Sunday, Borough President Melinda Katz kicked off the SummerStage Concert with headliners like Kid N’ Play, Ginuwine, DJ Camilo and Mack Wilds.
The free concert took place at Flushing Meadows Corona Park with the help of Katz’s team and the non-profit City Parks Foundation. This was the first SummerStage concert to take place in Queens this summer, but it was the 31st season of the concert overall. Katz partnered with New York City Parks, City Parks Foundation and Delta Air Lines to host the “Only in Queens” summer festival.
“This is a great day for the borough, we’re having this great festival, which is the third year in a row. We usually get about 100,000 people here to join us,” said Katz. “We started off with a scavenger hunt and there were over 100 teams of two to six people that applied to actually play in the scavenger hunt. We also had a great day filled with old cars and bouncy rides, my two children loved the day, and then we end up here tonight with a great concert for SummerStage. There are some great co-sponsors like Delta and Resort World. We also have bands from Queens such as Kid N’ Play, Mack Wilds from ‘The Wire’ and Ginuwine and I think it’s just a great way for folks to spend time in the borough of Queens. We’re borough families and we need to have these types of events so that people have a place to go and we can continue to put Queens on the map.”
The SummerStage is “New York City’s largest free performing arts festival, bringing more than 115 free performances to Central Park and 15 neighborhood parks throughout the five boroughs. With performances ranging from American pop, Yiddish Soul, and Taiwanese music to dance, comedy and theater, SummerStage will feature more than 200 unique artists, filling a vital niche in New York City’s summer arts landscape, ensuring that New Yorkers will have access to exceptional cultural experiences, free of charge. Since its inception 31 years ago, SummerStage has benefited more than six million people from New York City and around the world,” according to the City Parks Foundation.
“It’s really exciting, we do free concerts all over the city, this is one of only two locations in Queens that we have concerts, so it’s a big day for us because we have three bands on one stage, we also do concerts in Queensbridge,” said Erika Elliot, artistic director of the City Parks Foundation. “We’ve been planning this for months and months, so it’s always really amazing to be here on the day of and see all of the people here. The reason that we’re here is because of Borough President Melinda Katz, because she put this whole day together and as the Parks Department is their partner and we’re a partner of the Parks Department, it was like a natural relationship for us to be involved since we produce concerts all over. It’s been a great process.”
Elliot continued, explaining the process of what it took to get those amazing acts on one stage.
“We started just thinking about what would be the best talent to bring out here, what they were looking for and a lot of it was [us] thinking about Queens-based artists or artists who have history in Queens and so we looked at a couple of other ones, but having Camilo here and having Kid N’ Play is a direct homage to the fact that it’s happening in Queens and we wanted to bring Queens artists back,” said Elliot. “And then obviously Mack Wilds is great, we had him last year in Staten Island and he’s a great talent and Ginuwine is just a lot of fun, so it just came together.”
The SummerStage festival has highlighted hip-hop music and the culture in 2013 and then salsa and Latin music in 2014. This year the festival will be honoring Jazz music and the legends responsible for making that era so unique. According to the City Parks Foundation, “The 2016 season of SummerStage will both showcase exceptional performing artists from around the globe, and will also feature more jazz performances than ever before, with nearly half a dozen planned for Central Park and many more in neighborhood parks across the city. The focus on jazz this season coincides with the upcoming centennial of the musical dawning of the term ‘jazz,’ as well as what would have been the 100th birthdays of late jazz greats including Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, and Ella Fitzgerald.”
In FMCP, the festival began with a performance from Kid N’ Play with intermission sets from DJ Camilo and the festival ended with a late performance from Ginuwine, who performed a crowd favorite, “Pony.” The festival will continue into July in Socrates Sculpture Park and in Queensbridge Park, which are both located in Long Island City.
“Everything we do is to bring people together around arts and culture and make fun culture accessible to people,” said Elliot. “Not everybody has the ability to go to a club or even would want to do that, so to bring artists into a park that’s free and accessible and people can bring their families and you can have generations that come out and enjoy it, that’s really what my organization is about, is presenting arts and culture in public spaces for free and it’s just a great thing to be able to do and hopefully people will just enjoy and be excited that something’s happening in a park that they maybe wouldn’t have expected.”
Reach Yvette Brown at (718)357-7400 ext. 128, firstname.lastname@example.org or @eveywrites.