For Black businesses, Cincinnati Music Festival presents a valuable economic opportunity
This weekend, tens of thousands of festivalgoers will sample songs from Snoop Dogg and Al Green and bites from Cincinnati eateries. Organizers say it'll be a valuable economic opportunity for Black-owned businesses.
Friday evening, less than 24 hours after Snoop Dogg and Al Green take to the stage to celebrate the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, food trucks will line up on Fifth Street as shops and vendors take over Fountain Square for the weekend.
The three-day event, Cincy Soul: The Black Taste, also will feature the Vibe Marketplace and performances from Tweet, Ceelo Green, Rotimi, and Donell Jones as Cincinnati celebrates the grand opening of the Black Music Walk of Fame a mile away at The Banks.
Lifelong Cincinnati resident and former nightclub owner Julian Rodgers helped organize Cincy Soul in partnership with Vibe Marketplace.
"What I would love to see is Cincy Soul be one of those premier food events where folks say, 'Hey, this is where I can come and find the new Soul secrets,' " he says, adding that the event hopes to highlight Black entrepreneurship and culinary traditions.
He adds that opportunities like Cincy Soul are particularly empowering for Black residents in the city.
"We definitely haven't had an opportunity to highlight or showcase ourselves at certain events," he says, but "selling food has always been one of the many businesses and one of the venues that the Black community has had."
Events like Cincy Soul, he adds, present opportunities for first-time caterers to gain exposure and traction. That's why he chooses to focus on local vendors and eateries.
"These restaurants, these caterers, these food trucks? These are your neighbors. These are people who live in your city," Rodgers says.
For local establishments, Cincy Soul offers an opportunity to expand their customer base and name recognition. Rodgers says that previous iterations of Cincy Soul brought in 30,000 customers over the weekend.
"What the vendors can expect is a lot of hungry folks," he says. "The exposure is probably the biggest thing. We've seen some caterers start [at] the food fest, and now they're in brick-and-mortar spaces.
"We wanted to make sure that the money was made for people who lived here," he adds, "and then try to get that dollar to recycle in the community."