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Forest Hills to be alive with sound of music at fest

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The Forest Hills Festival Of The Arts on Sunday, May 22, will bring about 80,000 people not only from Queens but throughout the city to hear worldly sounds and dance to exotic rhythms, while filling up on Johnny Rockets burgers, Tex-Mex tacos and Cold Stone Creamery ice cream.The event, which will close off seven blocks along Austin Street and side streets from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., is sponsored by The Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce in order to attract shoppers to its commercial district."We've been feeling the impact of outside merchants recently," said chamber President Leslie Brown. "Our goal is to encourage people to get to know our stores here."Since its introduction five years ago, the annual festival has spread its ethnic wings, Brown said, with music ranging from Rich Campbell and his Party Gras serving up some saucy New Orleans jazz to the Bombazo Dance Theater pounding drums and celebrating Puerto Rican culture. Bombazo's leader, Felix Romero, is considered a lead authority on the country's social and political history.George Gee, believed to be the only Asian-American swing band leader in the world, will draw a jump and jiving crowd at 3 p.m. and 4 p.m., as will the smooth notes of Grammy winner Pucho and The Latin Soul Brothers at 5 p.m.Children have there own venue to see performances by Ibble Bibble and Stewzo, who connect with the young audience by using positive themes on school and self-image.The entertainment will be held on stage at 70th Road.About 250 vendors, including more than 50 from Forest Hills, will also be selling handmade jewelry, pottery, artwork, hand-painted clothing and handicrafts, not to mention the more than 200 stores along the street that will be open for shoppers to peruse.For schedule information or to reserve a spot, call the chamber of commerce's office at 718-268-6565 or visit their Web site at www.shopforesthills.com.Reach reporter Zach Patberg by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

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