Cincy Soul: The Black Taste plans return after initial success

Posted at 11:20 AM, Jul 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-27 11:46:51-04

CINCINNATI — The first Cincy Soul: The Black Taste, held Saturday on Downtown's Fifth Street, was such a resounding success it will expand next year, said event organizer Julian Rodgers.

“It was definitely great,” said Rodgers, owner of OTR Live and Cameo nightclubs. “We are looking at doing two days next year and expanding it to Saturday and Sunday.”

This year’s festival ran from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday on Fifth Street between Vine and Walnut. It coincided with the 2016 Cincinnati Music Festival, one of the largest R&B music events in the country, at Paul Brown Stadium.

RELATED: Photos from Cincy Soul 2016

Rodgers said next year’s Cincy Soul again will overlap with the annual music festival, which is scheduled July 27-29, 2017.

Rodgers said he created Cincy Soul to expose more people to small, minority-owned restaurants in the city. He estimates between 8,000 to 10,000 people sampled food from this year's 28 participating Cincy Soul vendors. 

“They (the vendors) told me they wanted to rename the event to Cincy Sold Out because every vendor sold out of their food,” Rodgers said of the event, which was sponsored by the African American Chamber of Commerce.

Cincy Soul was also part of the Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau's Vibe Cincinnati, a platform created to celebrate diversity in the region during large events and conventions in the city.

"We built capacity Downtown and helped people come earlier and stay later," said Jason Dunn, vice president of multicultural and community development for Cincinnati USA, of both Cincy Soul and Vibe. "I think it showcased the city and really opened it up for all people."
Andre Hopwood, owner of Conscious Kitchen in Clifton, was one of the vendors impressed by the large crowds who came to Cincy Soul in the 90-plus-degree temperatures on Saturday.

“Those lines were ridiculous,” Hopwood said. “The organizers had to come to us and tell us to stop serving customers. We weren’t prepared for those types of lines.”

When Hopwood heard Rodgers planned to expand the festival to two days next year, he said it was fantastic.

“That was the only downside, that it was a one-day event,” Hopwood said. "I had no idea it would be that busy. If it was two days, that would be great. It would give more people an opportunity to check out everything.”

Rodgers said he planned the first Cincy Soul in 60 days, so the longer lead time will help.

“We can only imagine what we can do in 12 months to plan,” he said.”We’ll be able to get more sponsors, entertainment and give people more time to try more food.”

Dunn added the success of Vibe Cincinnati events such as Cincy Soul and the free concerts on Fountain Square guarantees their continued success.
"Vibe Cincinnati will be vibing on for future years," he said. "We will be here next year and the year after that bigger, better and stronger."
Dunn added that Cincy Soul is "just not for people of color."
"It’s for all people who enjoy good food," he said.