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JAMS draws crowds to Queens

Thousands braved intermittent rain and thunder Saturday afternoon to visit the sprawling Jamaica Arts and Music Summer Festival, enjoying nearly a mile-long strip of music, shopping and food.

Though passing rain showers briefly dampened the event, Jamaica Avenue was packed for the vast majority of the day with a virtual parade of residents from all around the city and beyond.

"This is actually our first time in the city," said Georgia resident James Stouffer. "The guy at the front desk of our hotel lives around here and told us about it. I'll tell you, you don't get this sort of thing around where we're from. It's great, and it seems like it goes on forever."

Street vendors lined the traditionally busy thoroughfare from Parsons Boulevard to 170th Street. The event featured R&B and Brazillian musical acts, a circus tent, face painting for children and a seemingly endless supply of street fair food.

"You know, I've got to have me a kebab," said Jamar Jackson, a Jamaica resident.

Cynthia Rodriguez, who lives in Queens Village, said she has made the JAMS festival a yearly event for her husband and two children.

"We've been coming here for four, maybe five years now," she said. "I like the shopping, [my husband] Javier likes the food and the kids like the music and shows. Something for everyone to like. It's become a yearly part of our family. We wouldn't miss it."

This year's festival, the 12th anniversary of the annual event, was jump-started by a concert Friday in King Park, where a diverse slate of musical guests performed well past sundown.

The JAMS Festival is hosted annually by Cultural Collaborative Jamaica, an organization which strives to link community, cultural and economic objectives to further the success of the downtown Jamaica area.

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at Sstirling@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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