By Andy Katz
The Sutphin Boulevard Business Improvement District hosted its second annual Harvest Festival Saturday.
The event took place along Sutphin Boulevard between Hillside and Jamaica Avenues and about 100 vendors, according to BID President John Melackrinos, who manned a table near the performance stage.
Melackrinos was accompanied by his senior rescue whippet, “Romeo”, who observed the scene from the comfort of an oversized canine cushion.
“Last year we had about sixty-something participate,” Melackrinos said. “So this is definitely an improvement.”
WBLS radio and TV personality Dr. Bob Lee served as emcee on the event stage. Lee said his WBLS works to help kids from local schools and non-profit organizations learn the broadcastinh ropes.
“We put them on the radio to find out what they’re all about, and to create awareness for the community,” Lee said.
Lee introduced the first live act of the day, Keiko Ashley’s Music Studio.
“We teach all ages and all instruments,” Ashley said. “We’re just happy to bring all kinds of music to the community.”
Drummer Maury Monegro opened the set with a jazz-inspired solo, followed by a keyboard performance by Jermaine McInnis, Jr., who played renditions of the “Power Rangers” and “Pokemon” themes.
Emily Copeland’s solo violin version of Michael Jackson’s “Heal The World” prompted enthusiastic applause and students Victor-Lee Chinapoo and Daniel Best offered a duet rendition of Bill Withers’ “Lean On Me” with Ashley performing on vocals.
Ashley closed out the set with a pop medley of her own composition on alto sax. Then it was time to pack up. “She has a wedding at St. John the Divine to play at,” her mother and manager, Sharon Chambers said with a laugh.
Near Jamaica Avenue, festival participants began to fill Sutphin Boulevard into the afternoon.
“It was a slower start this year,” said Alexis Greenidge, presiding over a table of her own, African-inspired craft work. “But we’re getting there.”
Event vendors said they welcomed the crowds.
“I’m doing fine here,” said Asif Channon as he presided over a large table filled with tools, dental picks, miscellaneous optical and electronic equipment—the kind every street fair seems to have, and towards which nearly every passerby is drawn to like iron filings to a magnet.
Several of the food vendors served Afro-Caribbean dishes like jerk chicken, plantains, oxtail and curries. One man used a machete to hack open coconuts, from which customers drank using long green straws. Mexican food and Italian food were also readily available.
Participants also had the opportunity to get undergo blood pressure screening and to get tested for allergies at kiosks operated by Fidelis and Health First.
Back at the main stage, the singing group Right Direction ascended the stage, performing to perform a memorable series of tributes to the late Aretha Franklin.
Listeners held hands and formed a single line as they swayed to the music of the Queen of Soul.
In spite of gathering clouds, the weather held and folks seemed to have a pretty good time.