Friday, Feb. 24, 2017 | 2 a.m.
One of the biggest cultural events in the state returns to downtown Las Vegas this weekend as the 16th annual Taste & Sounds of Soul Festival brings plenty of food, music and good vibes to the Fremont Street Experience Feb. 25 and 26.
From 11 a.m. until midnight Saturday and Sunday, more than 40 food vendors and various local bands and entertainers will highlight Las Vegas’ original casino drag, and the Las Vegas Black Image Magazine Honors presentation is set for 2 p.m. Saturday. Among the many individuals honored this year are: Derek Stevens, owner of the D and Golden Gate casinos; Wendell Williams, founder of the Las Vegas MLK parade; Cassandra Lewis, parks and recreation program specialist with the city of Las Vegas; actress and entrepreneur Vivica Fox; and music producer and recent Las Vegas transplant Teddy Riley.
Festival founders and Las Vegas Black Image publishers Charles Tureaud and Kimberly Bailey Tureaud say that while the event serves as a local celebration of Black History Month, its roots as a grassroots effort to promote local businesses are still evident today.
“We just keep going,” Bailey Tureaud says. “Now we have so many people coming from L.A. to experience this event every year, booking their rooms downtown, and it just keeps growing. So it’s providing more exposure to the local and minority businesses that participate, and it’s not just two days out of the year that they benefit.” More than 15,000 locals and tourists are expected to attend this weekend.
The event began in historic West Las Vegas as a collaborative event to promote small businesses. It expanded when Don Barden, one of the first African-American casino owners downtown, joined it with his anniversary celebration at Fitzgeralds, the Fremont Street casino now known as The D. The collaboration turned into the food-focused Taste of Soul Festival, which has over the years grown to include more live entertainment from local and regional R&B and blues acts and performers from other musical genres.
Bailey Tureaud, daughter of Las Vegas civil rights activist and TV personality Bob Bailey, says she takes great pride in the growth of the event and its impact. “We think our festival was one of the first of its kind. Other [organizers] have toured our event and asked questions and then gone on to do other festivals downtown and elsewhere,” she says. “We take pride in that — it’s really had a ripple effect. There are other Taste of Soul events happening in other states and that’s great because we know we put our stamp on it.”
Barbecue and soul food is always a big draw for the festival, and there’ll be more than ever on Fremont Street this weekend. “We’ve got some of the best barbecue and soul food restaurants on the West Coast, because Taste of Soul in Los Angeles is quite a bit bigger than ours and that helped us,” says Charles Tureaud. “We go to theirs and find some of the best stuff that we think Vegas will really appreciate, and bring the best of the best to our event.”