This year’s Family Food Fest Atlanta brings three celebrations into one: Father’s Day, Juneteenth, and the 50th anniversary of hip-hop.
The 9th Annual Food Sampling Festival will be held on Sunday, June 18th at the Georgia Rail Freight Depot. All-you-can-eat tickets allow you to sample the cuisine of 45 chefs and caterers. City officials, entertainers and fathers who specialize in or experiment with multicultural cuisine, especially vegetarian and vegan cuisine, also join in the gastronomic delights.
Cuisines include African, Caribbean, Southern, Creole, and Latin. “We’ve got it all covered and we want people to enjoy something more than just meat,” said FoodFest spokesperson and dessert caterer Kevin Ashford.
Ashford plans to create tropical fruit-based cookies, savory items such as North African lentils, walnut burgers and Brazilian lemonade with coconut milk.
But this festival is more than just food, especially for the black community.
“We are trying to let people know that there is a connection within our culture to our ancestors through our work, our food and our activities,” Ashford said. “We are proud of who we are.”
The afternoon event will begin with a performance of African drums by the Griot Arts Ensemble led by Barake Muref. This is part of Father’s Day, an effort to draw a cross-generational connection between Juneteenth and his 50 years of hip-hop.
“Celebrating 50 years of hip-hop is what sets us apart this year,” Ashford said.
Performers include veteran hip-hop artist and radio host Chub Rock, who will continue this tradition as a performer and debut as an honorary festival co-chair. Rock, known for “Treat ‘Em Right” and “Just the Two of Us,” will host the syndicated “Chavroc Show” at his OG 97.9 in Atlanta.
He hits the stage 32 years after the release of “Treat ‘Em Right,” an infectious beat that continues to circulate heavily on dance floors. Rock, who prides himself on releasing music free of vulgar and misogynistic lyrics, recalls a conversation he had with the late singer-songwriter Barry White about the longevity of music.
“You can put a great record on an album that people love, but it’s not easy to make a timeless record,” Rock said. “Classical records are only given by people, and you can’t do it by yourself.”
His fans include a former First Lady.
“When I look back and see Michelle Obama dancing to that record, and seeing her talk about practicing that record every day, it adds to a certain feeling that I’m doing the music right. I know,” Rock said. “If you can put a smile on people’s faces, that’s the key.”
In addition to food and music, there will also be face painting, dancing, a shaved ice station, and balloon art for children.
The festival also aims to function as a lighthouse for the community. A health-focused area of the event will offer screenings for issues such as high blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol. Attendees can also learn about local resources for combating health disparities that specifically affect black families. “Not everyone has insurance, but we show them what insurance is available,” Ashford said.
Known as Real Men Cook Atlanta until 2014, Family Food Fest Atlanta is also a fundraising event for its non-profit arm, Atlanta Culinary Charities. The organization teaches children life skills through culinary arts and after-school programs. The Old Adamsville Recreation Center also offers youth programs on Saturdays featuring arts, crafts, tutoring and entrepreneurship workshops.
Ashford returns to iconography for the Father’s Day event, which also celebrates hip-hop and Juneteenth. Juneteenth is the anniversary of June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, and told the last enslaved people in the United States: free.
“We have to show the community that we are a role model in many ways,” Ashford said. “We have accomplished so much, sometimes so little, but we still do the best we can, make the most of what we have, and We are able to connect all that in terms of our history, our culture, and recognize the people who have made a difference in our lives, especially men and fathers.”
Family Food Fest Atlanta
Sunday, June 18, 3:00pm to 6:00pm. Advance tickets are $35 or $15, ages 12 and under. Same-day admission is $40 or $20, ages 12 and under. Georgia Rail Freight Depot, 65 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Atlanta. 404-273-3227, familyfoodfest.org.