Most of the wrinkles have been ironed out in time for this year's Ujima Cinci-Bration, the African-American festival that will run downtown during the Coors Light Festival at Cinergy Field.
The planning of this year's Ujima festival, July 23-25, has had its share of bumps. Traffic and parking problems that occurred last year plague organizers, who are expecting even more visitors this year.
Some tensions also transpired over the selection of artists participating in this year's event, including whether to allow white artists from outside the region, Jim Clingman, executive director for the Greater Cincinnati African-American Chamber of Commerce, said.
"I don't want anyone to think it was a problem," Clingman said. "There was some concern about whether or not we could get someone locally because of economic interest. That way we could channel the money through an artist here."
Clingman and others originally got Cincinnati City Council support -- in the form of $150,000 in tax funds, which they are receiving again this year, for the event -- after arguing that black vendors traditionally had an economic disadvantage. Therefore, he said, the event strives first to include African-American vendors and artists for the festival.
The festival also was approved as a way to provide a family event downtown that would curb violence that erupted in 1997 during the jazz festival weekend.
"Really, most of this is the same as last year and we don't expect any surprises or anticipate any problems," Clingman said
There will be more volunteers this year to direct crowds and help with clean up, he said.
About 2,000 volunteers are expected at this year's event, compared to the 700 volunteers last year. That increase is to prepare for a larger crowd, Clingman said.
The festival will provide free entertainment to engage those not attending the music festival at the stadium. It also gives local venders a chance to make some money while keeping the crowds in one area.
On Friday and Saturday nights, the event will run until 2:30 a.m.
"In terms of our research, we found people wanted to eat later," said Larry Davis, media coordinator for the festival.
Another issue last year was the lack of restaurants that stayed open to accommodate hungry festival-goers, he said.
"I think the only one that was open late was Donatos (Pizza), and they made a killing," Davis said.
Organizers have made arrangements so that at least 10 downtown restaurants will remain open, he said.
On Fifth Street between Vine and Broadway, there will be 160 vending booths including food, beverages and arts and crafts.
There will be two stages -- one at Fountain Square and the other at Broadway and Fifth streets -- where there will be local singers, bands, dancers and storytellers.
The Cincinnati Police Division expects to have more than 150 police officers downtown to patrol crowds and direct traffic, the same number as last year. The only difference is that police will be working in two shifts because of longer festival hours.
Davis said festival visitors should expect traffic delays and parking problems because of the larger crowd.
He suggests leaving 45 minutes early and using the Gilbert Avenue parking lot next to the Greyhound bus station. Shuttles will run between the parking lot and the events downtown. The cost of the shuttle is 25 cents each way. ©
Streets to Close
Downtown street closings and restrictions during the Ujima Cinci-Bration and the Jazz festivals on July 23-25 are as follows:
· Fifth Street will be closed from Race to Broadway.
· All streets that connect Fifth Street between Race Street and Broadway will also be closed from Fourth Street to Sixth Street.
· No parking on any street from Third Street to Seventh Street between Central Avenue and Broadway, Central Avenue from Third Street to Ezzard Charles Drive and Central Parkway from Plum Street to Eggleston Avenue.
Any car in violation of these restrictions will be cited and impounded. If traffic exceeds expectations, additional perimeter streets will be closed.
These street closures and parking restrictions begin Friday, July 23 at 6 p.m. through Monday, July 26 at 5 a.m.