Farewell party planned in Utica for popular Varick Street personality Rainbow Young

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Rainbow Young, street musician and Utica celebrity who often is seen around bars on Varick Street playing various instruments, said he is leaving Utica for New York City next month.

The news of his departure has saddened the Utica community. To wish him well, a group of people have organized a sendoff party for Rainbow at 8 p.m. Thursday, May 26, at The Hub Eatery on Bleecker Street.

The event will include music, food and local performers. Proceeds from the event will go to Rainbow for his journey, according to the event's Facebook page.

Rainbow shows off his guitar while roaming around along Varick Street during Saint Patrick's Day festivities in 2020 in Utica.
Rainbow shows off his guitar while roaming around along Varick Street during Saint Patrick's Day festivities in 2020 in Utica.

This is not the first time people have teamed up to support Rainbow. Last year, a GoFund Me raised $6,000 to replace his accordion, which was destroyed after he was assaulted on Varick Street.

A well-known figure in Utica, it's easy to feel Rainbow's presence — or hear his voice — usually on Varick Street playing his saxophone or a guitar that seems to have lived many lives. He can be seen engaging with people in bars or passersby, showcasing a personality as colorful as his name.

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While Rainbow has become a recognizable face from Utica's nightlife, many are unaware of his story.

Born Yung Sung Lee, Young moved to the United States 45 years ago from his native South Korea to reunite with his mother, Kang Im Gilbert, and his stepfather William C. Gilbert at their Frankfort farm, according to a 2009 story from the Observer-Dispatch

Rainbow Young, street musician and Utica celebrity who is often seen around bars on Varick Street playing various instruments, said he is leaving Utica next month. He loves listening to the musicians and artists in Utica and often plays with them.
Rainbow Young, street musician and Utica celebrity who is often seen around bars on Varick Street playing various instruments, said he is leaving Utica next month. He loves listening to the musicians and artists in Utica and often plays with them.

Some ignore him, and others can't envision Utica nightlife without him.

Frank Cotrupe, owner of the Hub Eatery, said Rainbow is "definitely a part of Utica."

"I pray him moving is in his best interests and he finds everything he's looking for, and we're gonna help send him off with some money and let him know he will be missed and always welcomed," he said.

Venus Lanaux, a friend of Rainbow's and one of the organizers of his farewell party, said she can't remember a time when Rainbow wasn't on Varick Street, except once. One day, she said she asked him why he comes out, even in the cold, to share his music.

"His response was simple and concise: 'I want to see people happy!'" she said.

Maria M. Silva covers food, drink and culture in the Mohawk Valley for the Observer-Dispatch. Email her at mariamsilva@gannett.com or follow her on Twitter.

This article originally appeared on Observer-Dispatch: Utica celebrity Rainbow Young moving to New York City