The ninth annual African American Heritage Festival kicked off on June 18 and featured a wide-range of vendors, exhibits and performances at the M&T Bank Stadium. This year’s event featured performances from Robin Thicke, Ryan Leslie, Leela James, Marsha Ambrosius and Fantasia, among many other performers. But while the event definitely catered to a variety of musical tastes, some fans were disappointed when a certain soul legend, who many believed was slated to perform, only made a short guest appearance.

“I thought the show was OK, but I anticipated seeing Patti LaBelle doing at least one or two songs before she introduced Fantasia,” said Sam Graham, 60, a festival attendee. “I thought it was supposed to be for the young and the old, but the old didn’t get what they thought they were going to get.”

While promotional information for the event suggested LaBelle would perform, a prior engagement prevented her from doing so, and she was primarily billed as a host, according to event coordinators.

“Due to a contractual obligation, she was prohibited from performing,” said LaRian Finney, the festival’s coordinator. “In addition, she was advertised in all print, radio, T.V. and Internet as hosting only. But due to her appreciation and support of the festival, Ms. Labelle agreed to host the fantastic show.”

According to Finney, the AFRO publication Trends listed her as a scheduled performer, but the issue was produced well before the festival and all entertainment was “subject to change.”

Despite there being no performance by the soul icon, event coordinators and many other attendees were still pleased with the festival’s outcome.

“The festival was a tremendous success on multiple levels,” Finney said. “The outreach achieved related to health and wellness, financial literacy and education was overwhelming. More than 215,000 persons attended and enjoyed the weekend activities.”

“This year all the entertainers were really good and I think it was worth the ,” said Loretta Seitzer, festival attendee. “I enjoyed it and they had a little bit of everything.”


Gregory Dale

AFRO News Editor