Good in the Neighborhood Multicultural Festival is currently in its 20th year of operation, a music and food festival in Northeast Portland attended by over 10,000 residents along with a parade of 2,500 participants. Festival goers consider the event a, "big backyard bar-b-que because it brings neighbors together who haven’t seen each other since high school, or use the event to see people they don’t see until they come to the event," says festival chairwoman Cheryl Roberts.
However, the celebration also serves as a venue for new and emerging entrepreneurs who may not have access to other traditional marketplaces to sell their art, craft, and other maketable goods. Likewise, for many in the community it’s a resource for facilitating access to local jobs, civic opportunities, housing, and a multitude of other opportunities in the neighborhood.
Notes Roberts, the goal is "to highlight what’s good in our neighborhoods…to provide a venue for residents, not just in the neighborhood of King, but throughout the city, who want to participate and sell their goods and to get a hold of important resources."
Festival organizers say such a resource in the community is ever more critical now due to the ecnomomic downturn over the past few years. Says Roberts, whose regular job is as Executive Director of the African American Alliance for Homeownership, "I think the challenge for me is identifying those long-term impacts in the community that we can highlight, rather than focusing solely on what the festival does for the three days."
Economic downturn has also presented challenges with identifying a lead corporate financial sponsor. Long-time sponsor Washington Mutual was a casualty of the recession. However, Roberts and other organizers have been aggressive and creative in their acquisition of sponsors, such as holding awards for longest running sponsors – Safeway and Caruso Produce. Organizers have been very savy working with their long-time fiscal sponsor Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods (NECN) utilizing their neighborhood small grant to cover City permits and fees which accompany a festival of this size and scope.
Even more critical to maintaining continuity over so many years has been Robert’s success in building a thriving volunteer leadership team, The Good in the Neighborhood Planning Team. As a long-time organizer she has consciously offered leadership building exercises at meetings, has been very conscious and respectful of volunteers’ time, and organized planning meetings that are "well organized, start on time, end on time, and offer a place where they can contribute, while being appreciated for their commitment."
"Several team members," states Roberts, have become chairs and co-chairs of civic and school groups, contributing their leadership development to their experience as a Good in the Neighborhood planning team member." A key to their success in building both a great event and leadership is her willingness to "let people be creative," but also challenge them by not letting, "anyone put forth an idea if they aren’t willing to execuite it." The event has truly become a community treasure that is organized by, enjoyed by, and for the betterment of the community.