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By Journalist Ms. Jones
NEWBURGH – On Saturday, June 4th the Newburgh Illuminated Festival was held on Broadway and Liberty Street from 12 noon until 10 pm. There were a variety of activities for kids at Washington Headquarters. The festival also included art and several performance stages with bands, dancers, singers, rappers, and a fashion show. Laureate Bettina “Poet Gold” Wilkerson is no stranger to the festival. She hosted the Main Stage and has for several years.
“We were off for two years. It feels wonderful [to be back]… It reminds me of the first time I ever did it. I was just amazed at the magnitude of how much they closed down Broadway and they have six stages… the diversity of people… It’s really a community building event and a family event. There’s no violence… In all of the years that I’ve been coming, to bring all of these people together and not have a major incident is just beautiful… They have some great leadership here when it comes to the arts. There are really people here that are using arts as a catalyst for change and Newburgh Illuminated speaks to that,” said Poet Gold, former Dutchess County Poet Laureate. “Judy Kennedy, the mayor that was here… this was part of her vision as well as Rich Fracasse and several others that collaborated… They came together to form this event.”
The Newburgh Illuminated Festival was inspired by the late mayor of Newburgh, Judy Kennedy, to show Newburgh in a positive light. Fracasse not only helped coordinate the festival, he also played on the Main Stage with his band the The Funk Junkies.
Singer/Rapper Sammie B lit up the Liberty Stage with a swag similar to Iggy Azalea.
“I can’t wait for the day where people don’t say the white rapper and say Iggy Azalea first… They’re gonna say Sammie B first,” said Sammie B who is a newbie to the Newburgh Illuminated Festival and is about to drop a new EP on June 10th. “I love making music and making people smile and feel heard and supported and I feel like that’s what music does. That’s what music is about.”
There were tons of vendors and food trucks. People ate soul food, Jamaican food, Mexican food, Italian ices, funnel cakes, and more. Vendors sold t-shirts, toys, clothing, skin care, and more. Some vendors just distributed information. Resorts World occupied a booth and let everyone know that their new casino is coming soon inside the Newburgh Mall.
“[We are] opening in the middle of November in the Hudson Valley,” said Kathryn Watts, the Director of Human Resources. “We are currently looking to onboard and hire for security officers, surveillance positions, as well as shift manager positions.”
Nurses Edna Aboagye and Dawn Davenport also recruited people. However, they were not hiring. They wanted nurses to join their sorority.
“We’re actually chartering in this area… There is no chapter here in the Mid-Hudson area… We’ve been talking about this for years, about bringing our sorority here. So, we are chartering on June 18th,” said Davenport about Chi Club Nurses that began in 1932 by 12 African American nurses at Freedmen’s Hospital which is now Howard University Hospital. They provide healthcare education to the community.
Dying Industry Films, a new film company in the Hudson Valley, filmed the festival. They also had a booth where they shared information about their company.
“We… make [our] own content like, short films… comedy… YouTube series. [We’re] also available for hire for… events like weddings… comedy shows, recitals… and also head shots,” said Cara Dimedio. “[It is important to be a part of the Newburgh Illumination Festival] because… having all of these… smaller businesses coming… is really important, especially to Newburgh. As…some bigger film companies are moving in, I think having indie crews here as well is also really important.”
Mayor Kennedy’s vision was also to bring tourists to Newburgh. The Newburgh Illuminated Festival provided free transportation via shuttle bus to and from Beacon’s train station for crowd goers that traveled by train from Poughkeepsie, New York City, and beyond.