HAMMOND | The crowd stretched across Wolf Lake Memorial Park to see award winning hip-hop artist and actor James "LL Cool J" Todd Smith.
The Festival of the Lakes' hip-hop night at the pavilion had artists from as close as Bloomington, Ind., to New York.
Hip hop groups, the Pro Letarians and EPMD opened and had the crowds dancing and ready to see the headline act they all anticipated.
Eddie Galvon, of Chicago, has been a fan of LL Cool J since his first album release.
"He still writes lyrics, not like other artists where it's just music. LL has always been a lyrical genius," Galvon said.
Darnel Brown, of Lansing, saw LL Cool J in New York City in the 1980s, before he was in the spotlight.
"I thought to myself, he's gonna make it big," Brown said.
Since Cool J has become a musical star, Brown said he has matured gracefully.
"He's gonna from a rapper from the hood back then, to an actor to a positive spokesperson for children," Brown said. "He's giving back to the community now because he remembers back when he was struggling. He could charge hundreds for his concerts, but that's not LL."
Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said it was one of the biggest crowds he has ever seen for a Festival of the Lakes act.
"(LL Cool J) is highly recognizable. Every year we have an act that defines the festival," McDermott said.
Big names in entertainment elevate the festival and city's name, and give something back to Hammond residents, he said.
"Each year we do this, the festival becomes more and more well known," McDermott said.
LL Cool J drew a diverse crowd of people from a variety of backgrounds.
"A lot of people in Hammond are from the older crowd and a lot of older people can relate to LL Cool J. He's a very positive person," Kenneth Wilson, of Hammond, said.
Marissa McDermott, whose husband is Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr., said she listened to LL Cool J in high school.
"LL is one of these people who has such a broad appeal," Marissa McDermott said. "He's a Grammy-award winning, high-profile artist. We're honored to have him here."
Trisha Gargani flew in from New York to see the concert Saturday night. Cool J's two daughters were enrolled in a dance studio in Long Island, N.Y., she worked at and described him as the good father who was there for recitals.
"I like that he's classy and hot," Gargani said. "He's a really classy guy and that is appealing to me."
McDermott said as the festival grows, he wants to see acts like the Dave Mathews Band.
"When Dave Mathews Band plays at the Festival of the Lakes I can retire from being mayor, because I know I did my job," McDermott said.