You can’t discuss the history of Miami without taking a detour into Overtown. The neighborhood, one of Miami's oldest, was created in the early 1900s for Miami’s black population, who were allowed limited—if any—access to other parts of the city. Performers like Cab Calloway, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald and Sammy Davis Jr. often stayed in Overtown while performing in Miami, mainly because it was the only place they were legally allowed to sleep at night. Consequently, it became the city’s most exciting cultural hotspot.
It’s this sort of history that was in the mind of Michael Gardner when he decided to take over the Overtown Music and Arts Festival in 2014. Gardner and his company, Headliner Market Group, were used to throwing more lavish affairs (like the star-packed LIV on Sunday) but something about this event intrigued him. “It’s historical,” Gardner says, “and it was an opportunity to give back to the community.”
Since then, Gardner has made a point to bolster the “music” part of the festival, attracting international names to the lineup such as CeeLo Green and Tito Puente Jr. This year, he’s beyond psyched to announce the first wave of headliners: Ginuwine, Musiq Soulchild, Vivian Green, Estelle and Jon B. “I think we can be big as Calle Ocho,” Gardner says, referring to the similar and absolutely massive street festival that takes over Little Havana every March. “Our festival is also a street festival and”—his favorite part—“it’s free.”
There’s a lot more to the festival than music too. The family-friendly event has youth zones where younger attendees can enjoy arts and crafts, games and bounce houses. You won’t go hungry either. And Gardner notes that this year’s festival offers a good chance to get to know Overtown before the rest of the city. With attention and growing developments (including a potential David Beckham soccer stadium and future Marcus Samuelsson restaurant), the glory days of Overtown may not all be in the past. “People will be able to say, hey, I was a part of that,” he says. “I saw it when it was growing.”
What is the Overtown Music and Arts Festival? An outdoor concert with games, food and local vendors.
When is the Overtown Music and Arts Festival? July 14, 2018.
Where is the Overtown Music and Arts Festival? At NW 2nd and NW 3rd Avenues between 8th and 10th Streets.
How much are tickets to the Overtown Music and Arts Festival? The event is free and open to all ages.
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