Family Affair

The Rainbow Festival

At the height of a subtropical summer, what could be more natural than walking around in the asphalt-melting heat while chewing on barbecued meat and shaking your hips to the sound of a junkanoo band? This Saturday, the best place to do just that is Pompano Beach's Eighth Annual Rainbow Festival.

The street festival's ever-growing following of midsummer revelers hails from all over South Florida. Organizers expect between 15,000 and 20,000 people on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard between NW Sixth Street and Dixie Highway. But the big shindig wasn't originally meant to pack 'em in.

Founder Joyce Jackson, a supervisor in the city's parks and recreation department, recalls, "When it first started, it was meant to benefit our community, but people from other communities started coming." No kidding. So many people kept coming that last year the event was moved from tiny McNair Park to the more accessible MLK Boulevard.

Dancers and musicians get back to their roots at the Rainbow Festival
Dancers and musicians get back to their roots at the Rainbow Festival

Jackson, along with other parks department employees and radio exec Lindsey Maestro Powell, organized the first event as an arts-and-crafts fair showcasing Pompano Beach's black population. Powell remembers that year with a chuckle. "We started in a small field with a very small trailer and a disc jockey playing records," he says. Powell, now the director of promotions at this year's radio sponsor, 99 Jamz (WEDR-FM, 99.1), lined up a cast of favorite local musicians to draw more families.

Broward Sheriff's Office deputies bring out their zany little talking robot for the kids. Arts and crafts abound as well. But for Powell, the festival is about more than just having fun. "People need an outlet; they need to meet old friends, make new ones, network."

Among the local performers headlining the event, veteran performer Jimmie "Bo" Horne turns out his R&B hits. Coming off a rousing performance at Deerfield Beach's Mango Festival a month ago, Horne committed his promotions company, Joy Productions, to Rainbow's bill of sponsors. "Community means a lot to me," says Horne. "What we're doing basically is bringing artists to wholesome events to have that kinship." The West Palm Beach native started jamming in 1967 but hit it big in the mid-'70s, hooking up with KC and the Sunshine Band to collaborate on some of that group's early hits.

Horne shares the stage with long-time friend and fellow Miami disco pioneer Timmy Thomas. Ruby Baker -- who frequently croons covers at Ellington's Grill and O'Hara's Pub in Hollywood -- stretches her pipes for a couple of sets. Fort Lauderdale favorites EJ and Company also perform.

 
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