Gary Soulsman reports on the annual tribute to Bob Marley in Wilmington, Delaware, a town in which he lived and worked before he rose to fame.
“It’s hot and makes you feel like you’ve arrived in Jamaica.”
Jarvis Berry of Coatesville, Pa., felt that way today after ducking into some shade at the Peoples’ Festival at Tubman-Garrett Riverfront Park.
He thinks reggae star Bob Marley, who was a resident of Wilmington in 1966 when he worked as a lab assistant and auto worker, would approve of the festival held in his honor since 1995.
“I like reggae because of Marley’s message of unity and one love,” says Berry, 40, who has been coming to the festival six years.
The event drew what one organizer estimated at more than 5,000 people and included two stages of music that sent out a throbbing beat.
In addition to headliner Bushman at 10 p.m., there was a children’s village of activities, a vendors alley with local as well as international arts and crafts , and a popular bamboo rain hut that spritzed kids with water.
“This is awesome,” said Olivia Danovich, 8, who left her hand prints on a unity poster along with her sister, Gabi, who turns 4 Sunday.
It’s because of these types of events that the family is happy it moved into the LOMA district of the city at Second and Market streets, said Dennis Danovich, father of the girls.
The Peoples’ Festival was started as a big party in 1995 by Genny Pitts and her husband, Ibis, friends of the Marley family.
Today, Ibis stood near the food court remembering how it all got started while wearing a graying beard, big-brimmed hat and Marley T-shirt.
A retired stevedore, the 67-year-old Ibis played drums with Marley decades ago as the young musician worked on songs. Ibis also traveled to Marley’s native country of Jamaica.
“I saw the influences that made him a great soul,” Ibis said.
Ibis met the Marleys when the family lived on Tatnall Street near 23rd Street and Ibis had a store nearby. It’s before Marley became the leading light of reggae.
Ibis said the friendship was important in his life and after he was given a small inheritance he held a party in honor of Marley who died of cancer in 1981 at age 36.The first event was held at Frawley Stadium and is now known as the Peoples’ Festival, and held in conjunction with the city of Wilmington.
“There’s an interesting story to how all this came about,” said filmmaker Pati Nash, who is working with Wilmington’s Film Brothers Productions on a Peoples’ Festival documentary. On Saturday she was out and about filming interviews.
Also paying tribute to Marley was Philadelphia mural maker Mark G. He was creating a six- by 60-foot mural of Marley that he hopes to display in Wilmington.
Sunday, the festival continues with a documentary on the musician called “Marley Unplugged.” It will be shown at the Double Tree Hotel, 700 N. King St., at 2 p.m. Tickets cost $10.
Contact Gary Soulsman at 324-2893 or firstname.lastname@example.org