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Pine Bluff community members gather for fourth annual 'Forward Fest'

Organizers with GoForward Pine Bluff said that the 'Forward Fest' is one of the biggest festivals in the city, aiming to bring those in the community together.

PINE BLUFF, Ark. — Tavante Calhoun is the Quality of Life Coordinator for GoForward Pine Bluff.

The organization hosted their fourth annual Forward Fest, which Calhoun said is the unofficial start to summer for this city.

"What we want to do is celebrate Pine Bluff, [and] celebrate Pine Bluff being the hub of the delta," Calhoun said. "We have a passion to continue, improve Pine Bluff."

As a Pine Bluff native, Calhoun said big events that bring the community together are something that he's envisioned before.

"My only goal was to do whatever I could to help that come to pass," Calhoun said.

Since June 2021, he has been working to find artists like Keke Wyatt and Bobby Rush, a Pine Bluff native-- bringing them in to be apart of the celebrations.

The organization, Calhoun said, has been successful in that effort.

While things are going smoothly currently, in retrospect, he admits that it hasn't always been that way.

"We want to do what we can to make our community better. We did drop the ball, and we were not progressing with our community for a long time, but we're changing that narrative now," Calhoun said.

Safety was a top concern for organizers after one person was killed and three others were hurt after a shooting in Regional Park, where the event was held, a week before.

Calhoun said they are beefing up security in hopes of preventing the unthinkable from happening at this event.

"We do have a security check before the people actually get onto the charter bus. That way we remove people from being able to bring their personal vehicles into the park," Calhoun said.

Brian Washington is also a native of Pine Bluff and runs a well-known food truck with his wife. They mentioned that they're excited for the festival and what it means for the city.

"[It's] good [to] give back to the community. You know, [it's] go to see people come out, [and] not doing no violence," Washington said.

It's events like this, Washington said, he is always happy to be at.

For him, this is more than just serving food to the public.

This is about being involved and a part of the change this city is striving for.

"I mean, it will be a good day. The weather is perfect. I mean, security was bussing people out and you didn't have to worry about anything," Washington said.