PowerFest still rocks

2,500 brave rain to see urban talent showcase

Umbrellas sprouted like mushrooms as the drizzle gave way to fat drops of rain.

The artist on stage didn't skip a beat, urging the crowd to "rock those umbrellas."

Saturday's PowerFest was a soggy affair, but it didn't dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd gathered to enjoy some of the hottest talent in urban music.

"It's been really great," said performer Bertell, of Atlanta, who has a record coming out in June on Capitol Records. He's promoting his single Beat It Up.

"The fans were singing along and that's encouraging for a new artist," he said.

The main event was a stage set up at the downtown fairgrounds on Hale Street, where thick bass lines and heavy beats poured out of an impressive stack of speakers 6 feet tall. But the crowd of about 2,500 also sampled hot dogs, ribs and chicken wings and browsed tables loaded with sunglasses and novelty license plates.

About 50 custom cars and trucks lined one end of the fairgrounds, their hoods propped open, music blaring from speakers in the trunk. James Summers, of Barnwell, S.C., was showcasing his red-and-white '77 Chevrolet Capri. The 24-inch wheel rims hiked the car up high enough that Summers installed runner boards on either side so passengers could step inside.

The car represents three years in the garage and thousands of dollars.

"It took a lot to get it done," Summers said.

Nearby was a pink and aquamarine creation with Tinkerbell airbrushed on the hood. Ciara Garrett's girlie '94 Grand Marquis was eye-catching among the bold colors and flame decorations of other cars.

"I've loved Tinkerbell since I was a little girl," explained Garrett, of Augusta, who wore an outfit and hair dyed to match her car's interior.

Back near the stage, the tempo ebbed and flowed like the rain as artists performed different strains of hip-hop and R&B.

PowerFest, now in its 10th year, features chart toppers such as Omarion in addition to up-and-coming artists. The mix shows aspiring young artists that their dreams can come true, said A.J. Savage, who represents artists including Alicia Keys, Mario and Jennifer Hudson. Savage came as a sponsor Saturday.

Bertell said the experience was "great." He said he hopes to return next year.