EAST ORANGE, NJ - The City hosted its first MACFest (Music, Arts & Cultural Festival) last Saturday at City Hall Plaza to a crowd of hundreds of fun-loving concert goers and thrill seekers of all ages and sizes.

The plaza, jumping with beats from DJ Fauzi, was transformed into an ethnic-inspired marketplace filled with vendors selling culinary delights — including local Caribbean cuisine, Southern style soul food, vegan fare and specialty desserts; artisan creations; African American art; clothing, accessories, natural wellness products, and giveaways from nonprofits. The marketplace also included face painting, henna tattoos, nail art, reflexology and a casting agency for aspiring young artists.

East Orange’s own Vinnie Brown from Grammy Award-winning hip hop trio Naughty by Nature served as guest host, introducing exciting performances from the George Washington Carver Drill Team, Maurice Chestnut and Cicely Tyson Students, East Orange YOPAT’s “Empire” Program, a Sidewalk Catwalk Fashion Show hosted by Tyrone Chablis, New Jersey-based Soul Rockers The Band Called FUSE and Global Sensation Vinx.

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Throughout the day, dozens of children eagerly participated in a collaborative painting activity, “The Elephant Project” at the Montclair Art Museum Art Truck led by artist Dan Fenelon and special guest collaborator, renowned visual artist Willie Cole. Other activities included the Epic Chalk Art Battle, which was won by artist Taha Abdul Tawwab X; a Community Mapping Project led by Newark-based Gallery Aferro and Pink Dragon Artist Syndicate to launch the Activate: East Orange public art initiative; and interactive children’s programming coordinated by the East Orange Public Library and the Department of Recreation & Cultural Affairs.

Right after remarks made by Mayor Lester E. Taylor III, attendees, including the mayor, were surprised to see a flash mob break out in dance to this year’s megahit “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars. Among the dancers were mother-daughter duo Tanya and Tyana, who had just traveled to New Jersey to start their summer. Tanya, an East Orange native, checked flash mob off of her bucket list.

“I promised her [Tyana] a great kickoff to her summer vacay!,” she said.

The overall feeling among the event participants was echoed by one unidentified patron “MACFest is long overdue.” East Orange has long been known for its concentration of resident celebrity personalities and talented artists — from the late Whitney Houston, Queen Latifah, John Amos, Dionne Warwick, and Naughty by Nature to the more recent screen stars Naturi Naughton and Antonique Smith and countless stars in between. 

“This was a fantastic display of diversity, art and culture,” said Mayor Lester E. Taylor III. “I was thrilled to see so many new and familiar faces. I look forward to working with the Arts Council of East Orange and other community-based organizations to bring more of this type of innovative, interactive and collaborative programming to the City of East Orange.”