MACFest performers defy rain with memorable moments

Tito Puente Jr. and his orchestra perform onstage on Saturday, June 2, at the cIty’s annual Photo by Chris Sykes
Music Arts and Culture Festival in City Hall Plaza during Puente’s performance of his father’s classic hit song ‘Oye Como Va.’

EAST ORANGE, NJ — East Orange’s third annual Music, Arts and Culture Festival, or MACFest, took place in City Hall Plaza on Saturday, June 2, featuring many great performers and performances, including Tito Puente Jr., Melisa Morgan and this year’s headliner, Raheem Devaughn.

The event was hosted by actress Naturi Naughton, who stars on the hit STARZ cable TV show “Power.”

“This has been so awesome,” said Naughton at the event. “Can I just say, East Orange, we are turned up right now. It looks so good out here. The vibe is right, the food is good and the music is amazing.”

“It is truly a pleasure be here. Thank you guys for having me and adding a little bit of Latin flavor to the festival this year,” said Puente at MACFest. “It’s very special for me today, too, because, yeah, I had to say it: It’s my 47th birthday today. … I’m so happy to be here on my 47th birthday and celebrating it right here in East Orange, New Jersey, so it’s a pleasure to be here today.”

Morgan is a singer-songwriter who had a string of hits in the 1980s, including “Do Me Baby,” “Do You Still Love Me?” and “Fool’s Paradise.” But at MACFest, she did her best impression of legendary singer Diana Ross, who cemented her place in American concert history in 1983 by performing live onstage in Central Park during a driving rainstorm that would have sent any other entertainer — except the late Prince — running for shelter.

Prince did the same during his halftime performance at Super Bowl XLI in 2007. But on Saturday, June 2, Morgan proved she could sing and weather a storm with the best of them by climbing down offstage when it began to rain, so that she could share the audience’s experience and sing as long as possible, in case the bad weather caused organizers to cancel the show.

“I’m coming down there. I want to go out there with you, but they won’t let me,” said Morgan. She cut short the song “Fool’s Paradise” in order to launch into a rousing rendition of her hit song “Do Me Baby,” because she knew the crowd in City Hall Plaza wanted to hear it before the concert ended. “If y’all can stand it, I can stand it. Ain’t nothing but a little rain. … I gotta give you a little ‘Do Me Baby,’ because it’s raining and, if we don’t get to ‘Do Me Baby,’ that ain’t right, is it?”

Even though Devaughn took the stage late, he proved he had the chops of a true performer by continuing to sing in the rain. His efforts were much appreciated by the crowd of umbrella-wielding fans that stayed just to see him, including Mayor Ted Green, who was able to see from the VIP tent across from the stage.

“We had a great day today in the city of East Orange,” said Green on Saturday, June 2. “Everybody came out. The audience was great, performers were great, everybody that participated did a great job and everybody played a role. From the Recreation Department to the Public Works Department and the Parks Department to the City Council and the Police Department and Fire Department, plus all the volunteers from the city community that came out, we all pulled together to hold another great event in the great city of East Orange.”