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Cincinnati Music Festival returns to what could be 'biggest crowd ever'

janet jackson
Mark Von Holden
Invision, AP
Saturday night's concerts feature Janet Jackson, The O’Jays, Tank, After 7 and Kirk Whalum.

The Cincinnati Music Festival returns after a two-year pandemic hiatus, and organizers say it comes back in a big way. More than 90,000 people are expected to attend concerts. Festival producer Joe Santangelo says it's been a long time, but he's glad to be back.

“We could actually stop selling tickets at some point on Saturday. We are getting very close to that point," he says. "Don’t say we’re sold out yet because we’re not. We still have tickets to sell. This will be our biggest crowd ever.”

The shows started Thursday night at the Andrew J. Brady Music Center. Friday night, Charlie Wilson, Anthony Hamilton, Tony! Toni! Toné! and Jonathan Butler are at Paul Brown Stadium. Saturday night's concerts feature Janet Jackson, The O’Jays, Tank, After 7 and Kirk Whalum.

Fantasia had to drop out of Friday night's lineup because of COVID. She'll be replaced by Keisha Cole. The O'Jays will perform without Eddie LaVert. He's also recovering from COVID.

Mayor Aftab Pureval says the festival is important for Cincinnati, on many levels.

“People from all across the country coming here to hear their favorite bands, get to know our city and learn what makes us special,” he says. “It’s weekends like this and events like this that give Cincinnati the opportunity showcase the incredible momentum that we have in our music and arts community, our start-up community; Black Tech week is going on this week, our culinary scene and our beauty.”

A study by the UC Economics Center says the festival has a $107 million impact on the region. Pureval calls it the biggest tourism event of the year for Cincinnati.

“Local residents and visitors can be assured that we are rolling out the hospitality red carpet. To prepare for this exciting weekend, I gathered top leaders from the city and the hospitality community to ensure that we are ready to welcome fans of Janet Jackson and the O’Jays alike to our Downtown,” Pureval says.

In addition to the concerts, the Cincinnati Black Music Hall of Fame at The Banks will be dedicated Saturday and the class of 2022 will be inducted.

Venues in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky will host the inaugural Un-told Speaker series. Many streets at The Banks are closed off for the Festival 513, highlighting merchants and food vendors. The CMF Outdoor Museum will feature works from local artists of color. Ten will have their work on display at Washington Park, while five will be at Paul Brown Stadium.

Bill Rinehart started his radio career as a disc jockey in 1990. In 1994, he made the jump into journalism and has been reporting and delivering news on the radio ever since.