As the neighborhoods of inner North and Northeast Portland have changed over the years, the area's favorite annual festival has evolved right along with them. The Good in the Neighborhood Multicultural Music and Food Festival returns this weekend for the 14th time, complete with the lineup of music, food and activities that locals have come to expect.
"We're going to have a lot of the same entertainers and vendors that have been with us since Day 1," said festival Chair Cheryl Roberts. "But what I've noticed this year is the new energy from the new community members and new entertainers who want to come on board this year."
The festivities get under way with a kick-off party scheduled for 5:30 to 10 p.m. Thursday, June 22, at McMenamins Kennedy School, 5736 N.E. 33rd Ave. Jazz group the Ben Fowler Quintet will warm up the crowd during dinner, followed by dancing to the sounds of R&B band Moment's Notice. Admission is free, and McMenamins will donate part of the evening's proceeds to the festival, Roberts said.
Roberts added that holding the party at the Kennedy School is part of the neighborhood spirit that infuses Good in the Neighborhood — the McMenamin brothers, Mike and Brian, attended Holy Redeemer School on North Portland Boulevard back in the day, and have been involved with the festival for years.
The festival's main event gets started at 11 a.m. Saturday, June 24, with what has become a Good in the Neighborhood fixture: the annual Community Parade. The parade steps off from the Legacy Emanuel Hospital parking lot, at the corner of North Williams Avenue and Russell Street, and heads west down Russell to Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. From there, the parade takes a left turn and heads north on Martin Luther King all the way to Northeast Alberta Street, where it takes a right and heads west to its final destination — and the Good in the Neighborhood headquarters — King School Park, at the corner of Northeast Alberta and Sixth Avenue.
Past grand marshals of the Good in the Neighborhood Community Parade have included mayors Tom Potter and Vera Katz, Paul Knauls Sr. and members of the Portland Trailblazers and the Rose Festival Court.
The parade's grand marshals this year are Mr. and Mrs. Tom Kelly of Neil Kelly Designers and Remodelers. Tom Kelly is one of the original founders of Good in the Neighborhood. His late father, Neil Kelly, was a prominent North Portland businessman, philanthropist and community activist.
"I don't think that Tom gets his due as a community leader," Roberts said. "He is busy running a business, but he really gives back to the community. I'm glad we can recognize him this year."
The park serves as the site for the rest of the festival's run. Activities begin at noon on both Saturday and Sunday, June 24 and 25, and run until 9:30 p.m. Saturday and until 7:30 p.m. Sunday.
There's a whole lot more to be found at Good in the Neighborhood besides food and music, Roberts said. There's also an ethnic marketplace; a kids' space with arts and crafts; an Information Village with material on everything from financial wellness to healthy living; and booths from a wide range of community organizations.
In addition, Providence Health System representatives will conduct diabetes and high blood pressure screenings and provide information on the many health conditions that occur with greater frequency among non-White communities, such as hypertension, diabetes and heart disease. The idea, Roberts said, is to get people to be proactive with respect to these conditions, so that their onset can be prevented ahead of time.
"It's about having a healthy community in all respects," she said.
Members of the Portland Police Bureau's Northeast Precinct also will discuss the growing problem of identity theft. Officers will provide free document shredding services from noon to 4 p.m. June 24 and 25. Shredding old documents is a good way to keep vital personal information from falling into the wrong hands, Roberts said.
Roberts said the festival's roots reach back to Holy Redeemer School 14 years ago, where it got its start as a school fund-raiser. Her children attended the school at the time, so she found herself involved from the very beginning. Even then, she said, the festival carried a distinctively multicultural flavor.
"It was a way to reach out into the community and say, 'Hey, we want Holy Redeemer to represent the community that it's in.' So, we tried to bring in some of that diversity that was all around us."
From there, she said, the festival gathered steam, growing in popularity year in and year out.
Roberts said she is gratified to have seen attendance rise steadily at Good in the Neighborhood every year. It's evidence, she said, of the warm-hearted spirit of North and Northeast Portland.
"The labors are long and hard, but the rewards are even longer," she said.
"The festival really speaks to the diversity of Portland."