As if offering evidence that the African American community is determined to solve its own economic woes, the 6th annual Taste of Soul Festival provided a much-needed boost to the local economy at a soul-stirring extravaganza in South Los Angeles. Held today on a two-mile stretch of historic Crenshaw Blvd., the Taste of Soul Festival attracted more than 100,000 visitors, boosted sales of local businesses, featured many of America’s biggest brands, and seeded partnerships between corporations and local agencies seeking to help small businesses grow and prosper.
What once was a smallish neighborhood celebration, the Taste of Soul Festival is today a growing economic engine. Played out in an atmosphere of colorful sights, rhythmic sounds and mouth-watering aromas, the festival drew residents from their homes in hillside and neighboring communities while long-time festival goers came from far-flung communities throughout the county.
“The Taste of Soul Festival has become one of the most anticipated events of the year,” said event organizer Danny Bakewell, Sr. “This year, we have three stages featuring live performances by some of the top names in RB and Hip-Hop, gospel music and smooth jazz. Artists like Tyrese, Doug E. Fresh, Naturally 7, Al B. Sure, Deniece Williams, Goapele, Eric Benet, Lenny Williams, and Naughty by Nature are among the entertainment lineups on stages hosted by radio stations KJLH-FM and 94.7 the Wave. On the Gospel Stage, we have more than 40 choirs, including Voices of Destiny, Verizon’s How Sweet the Sound 2010 winner.”
Even more exciting, say local leaders like Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and event chairs Councilmembers Bernard Parks and Herb Wesson, who helped open the program and later participated in a record-breaking cupid shuffle line dance, is the fact that the festival has become an economic stimulus package of sorts. In some cases, business owners participating in the festival have reported double-digit growth as a direct result of being an event vendor.
“The festival has evolved into a place where businesses come looking for new customers and customers come looking for exciting new products and services,” continued Bakewell. The 6th annual Taste of Soul Festival featured more than 200 non-food vendors and 80 food vendors, making it one of Los Angeles‘ largest street festivals.
For many vendors, the Taste of Soul is a powerful tool for raising brand awareness and broadening their customer base.
“The exposure to new customers at the Taste of Soul is significant,” said Muriel Jones, owner of Shabazz Seafood Restaurant. “I’ve participated in the festival for each of the past five years and my business has grown by 25 percent. I attribute that growth directly to the Taste of Soul because of the immediate increase in new customers and the steady flow of repeat customers throughout the year.”
Small businesses are not alone in targeting the festival as a way to increase sales and grow customer base. The 6th annual Taste of Soul Festival also attracted some of America’s biggest brands including Disney, Chevrolet, Anheuser Busch, Hilton, Time Warner Cable, ATT, Nielsen, Hyatt Regency, Verizon, HP and McDonald’s.
In a first-ever pairing, the Urban League of Greater Los Angeles and HP, the global technology leader, co-located their booths as part of a new partnership to reach the same audience ““ small and medium size businesses (SMB). The partnership is a result of a common goal to help entrepreneurs launch new businesses and to help existing businesses grow and expand their products and services. According to Urban League CEO Blair Taylor, the working relationship being forged with HP would not have happened if not for Taste of Soul.
The Taste of Soul boasts an unparalleled selection of live performances and audience participation activities. Elected officials including California Attorney General Kamala Harris, Mayor Villaraigosa, and members of the Los Angeles City Council, County Board of Supervisors and Los Angeles Unified School District joined the crowd to help set a new Guinness World Record for the “world’s largest line dance.” (The old record was set in 2007 by the Ebony Black Family Reunion Tour where 17,000 participants performed the Cupid Shuffle for eight minutes). Festival goers also had a chance to dance in the longest Soul Train line and be part of the Let’s Move LA Flash Mob.
The event was made possible through collaboration with the City of Los Angeles and was chaired by Councilman Bernard Parks and Councilman Herb Wesson. Event co-chairs were Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Councilmember Jan Perry, City Controller Wendy Greuel and City Council President Eric Garcetti. Major sponsors such as ATT, Chevrolet, and Nielsen also provided support for the event.
For more information on the Taste of Soul, visit http://www.tasteofsoulla.org or call (323) 299-3800.
SOURCE Taste of Soul
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