Despite talk of a recession, Cheryl Roberts is optimistic that things still will be good in the North and Northeast neighborhood come June. The chair and chief fund-raiser for the annual Good in the NeighborHood festival says it's time to start finding the ingredients for Portland's premier multicultural food and music celebration. Roberts is going to need volunteers, entertainers, vendors and a grand marshal.
"We hope to attract more people this year," said Roberts, who has chaired the festival's organizing committee for eight years and volunteered for it nearly as long as the festival has been around.
Now in its 16th year, Good in the 'Hood's organizers are hoping they can pull off an even better event than last year. Roberts says she's looking for a team of smart, innovative and motivated volunteers who can start now to help prepare for the big day on June 28. Last year, 147 people volunteered their time to put together the daylong festival. People who are interested must have organizational skills, good communication skills, the ability to work in a team atmosphere, and most important, must be able to commit to two meetings a month and two days for the festival.
Great music and entertainment has always been the festival's mainstay, and this year is no different. Along with some musical veterans – Linda Hornbuckle, Patrick Lamb, Norman Sylvester Band, Andy Stokes, Brothers of the Baladi, Ocean 503 – Roberts is making space for fresh new talent to emerge.
"Let's hear some of the newer cats that want to showcase their talent," she said.
The festival has been a jumping off point for many local acts, she said.
"Particularly for African Americans, having a venue that represents them well is important," she said. "We've got top notch talent. For people to able to hear that for free (is unbelievable)."
And as the word grows about Good in the 'Hood – Roberts says people come from as far as Seattle to attend the free festival – entrepreneurs and businesspeople have a bigger audience to whom they can try and sell their wares.
In last year's parade, about 2,000 people marched, featuring classic cars, floats, marching bands, bike clubs and others. The grand marshal, the most visible and prominent person in the parade, has included Portland mayor, Tom Potter, several Portland Trailblazers, Rose Festival Queens, businessman and local celebrity Paul Knauls and even The Skanner's own Bernie Foster. This year's grand marshal has yet to be named, and Roberts is looking for nominations. Typically, the grand marshal is highly respected and known in the community — a person that could be called a "community leader" and believes in the basic tenets of the festival, to promote the culture of the North/Northeast neighborhoods and support the Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods' community programs to empower low-income and at-risk residents.
Most of all, Roberts is looking for sponsorship. The festival costs about $30,000, which includes costs for permits, entertainment, equipment rentals, and other incidentals. She says support from local businesses is important so volunteers who are interested in helping with fund-raising are encouraged to help out.
During the next month, Roberts hopes to get most everything booked for the festival, so she wants to get the word out that anyone interested in participating should contact her as soon as possible. She says "Good in the neighborhood" should represent the best of African American culture, the best of the North/Northeast culture, and the best of the culture of Portland. To volunteer call 503-282-1288 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.