Written by R. Ruiz
Take a moment to imagine the following, tides upon tides of young Black, White and Brown Americans flooding over the Bruckner Boulevard. Gay, straight, transgendered, all walks of life colliding at this historic cross way of history and culture; the port of Bronx creativity. This past weekend such a sight was to behold as hundreds came from all corners of the city to celebrate “The Greatest Day Ever”, a music festival currently in it’s 5th year. The venue was The New York Expo Center, nestled in the Hunts Point area of the Bronx.
Hunts Point has a long history as an artist’s paradise especially for musician types. The neighborhood was a hotbed for liquor and jazz, boasting famous names like Thelonious Monk, Maxine Sullivan and Herbie Hancock. Robert Moses’s famed Bruckner and the crippling wave of industrialization that followed has removed Hunts Point from the pantheon of Jazz capitals however for one brief moment, it almost felt like I was apart of history.
The Greatest Day Ever is a two day festival that features an array of musical guests, mostly hip-hop or edm based. This year’s line-up featured Anna Lunoe, Dillon Francis, Post Malone, The Internet, and Diplo just to name a few. There were classic rides like a ferris wheel and the zipper along side popular carnival eats. It was like going to the fair and not having to deal with the responsibility/annoyance of children. (admit it, you wish kids weren’t allowed at Dave and Buster’s as well!) It really was what you would think of as a kid growing up to be the Greatest Day Ever.
On Day 1 of the festival I was immediately impressed at the number of locals employed by the venue. I struck up conversations with several workers at the entrance and quickly learned who was from where, what spots to avoid and if the “boys” will be giving tickets that night. The vibe was relaxed. Everyone seemed to be on the same page: that no drama was to be tolerated today. Free water and vitamin water stations were set up as people boldly sparked their various herbal supplements throughout the park. The sweet smell of marijuana and fried dough filled the air. As the night lingered, I connected with friends from high school just in time as Bro Safari was about to take the stage. We slithered, elbowed, and shimmied as far to the front as we could so we could really feel the energy of the crowd wash upon us. Ice Cube would’ve been proud… it was a good day.
On Day 2, after struggling to build the strength for another day of rides and twerking, I managed to make it to the fairgrounds just at Post Malone was set to take the stage. Again, the overall energy of the event was quite chill. There was genuine enthusiasm from the crowd but I could tell people were tired. After making my rounds on all the rides one last time, I piled in to watch Diplo close the show. Needless to say if you are a fan or have ever experienced a Diplo show, the scene is insane! Balloons flying through the air, women flying through the air, inhibitions just flying through the damn air.
Overall it really was “The Greatest Days Ever”. There was a serious attention to making sure people felt safe and comfortable in an often misunderstood community. I’d love if another festival of a similar nature would consider hosting here again. My only issue, which is not to be taken lightly, is there should have been more of an effort to reach out to local businesses in the area. As I walked to and from the 6 train, on a lone corner not even a mere 5 minutes from the venue stood Milly’s Bar & Restaurant. Had the owners known what was going on just a stone’s throw away from them they would’ve prepared a happy hour, an after party, a pre-party, something so that they could benefit from the thousands of visitors (and their wallets). While safety is key a more concerted efforts needs to be made to include small business owners. Hopefully next year these missed opportunities can be seized upon.