PATERSON, NJ - Summer was in full swing at the Great Falls on Saturday night.
Enjoying a cool breeze on a warm gorgeous night, families gathered together at Overlook Park for the second performance of the Great Falls jazz festival. Everyone was doing their own thing. Some chilled out in lounge chairs. Others sipped on lemon and tropical drinks, or snacked on gyros and shish kebabs. , Kids rode their bikes and played. Adults basked in the sweet sounds of the two bands - About Funk and One Accord.
The glorious Great Falls provided the back-drop and as twilight hit, candles were lit on the café-style tables under a tent. There was also some cool, inventive artwork displayed in the café area, created by local Egyptian artist, Mohamed Khalil.
“This shows that the negative persona people have about Paterson is not true,” said Erik Lowe, chairman of the Paterson municipal utilities authority, the agency that sponsors the festival. “You can enjoy great music … the people … at the nation’s newest national park. This is to dispel the rumor that Paterson isn’t safe.”
Charity Wilder, a 9-year-old Paterson resident agreed. She said, “I’m always safe [in Paterson.]”
Marcia Julian of the Division of Cultural Affairs who helped put together the event said. “Summer is here. Jazz is here. It’s a nice way to breeze through the summer wind and bring people together through hard times,” Julian said.
Carlos and Juana Rodriguez were serving refreshing pina coladas from their island-influenced hut at the festival.
“We enjoy,” said Carlos. “It brings everybody together. It’s about the music, and beats being on the streets. Let them know there’s a real life out there.”
Russell Graddy, also known as Mr. G, owner of Mr. G’s Diner on 18th Street in Paterson was enjoying himself, chatting with a friend at the fall’s view. He said he had a “fabulous afternoon.”
“Paterson’s got a lot to offer,” said Graddy.
Mayor Jeffrey Jones raved about the event as well. “The venue is a lot cheaper for folks who have a love for music. You can’t be more alive!” said Jones. And Jones certainly was alive, showing off his fancy footwork as he danced to the live bands later in the evening, along with Lowe.
Talitha Payne, 5, of Paterson was having a blast playing with Jaiden Lee, 7; Natalie Payne, 8; and Taylor Carter, 9. Talitha’s eyes lit up as she expressed her love for the music. “I like the music! I like to dance!” she said, excitedly.
Tyrek Eillie, 14, came with his family and his puppy, Dice. Tyrek was having a great time playing with his puppy all night, holding him and moving Dice’s paws in time with the Michael Jackson tunes that were played while the band took a break. Tyrek said his favorite part of the festival was listening to the songs made famous by the late artist, Jackson.
While Paterson residents all joined together as a community, folks from other towns in New Jersey also came to join in the festivities. Robin Spencer of Garfield, formerly of Paterson, said she came to support a positive event in Paterson.
“I love New York City,” she said, “but this is free.
Linda Mecca and Laurie Brown came all the way from Jackson to see The Falls and ended up staying for the event once they realized jazz bands were performing. “It’s really nice,” said Mecca. “I wish they did this in our town.”
“We will definitely come back,” said Brown. “Everybody’s friendly. We’re enjoying ourselves.”
Mayor Jeff Jones said these festivals will be held weekly up until August 4 and encourages people from all communities to come join the fun.