Shoals African Heritage Festival begins Friday | News

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TUSCUMBIA — Wallace Ricks said the North Alabama African Heritage Festival was created to help young people learn about their heritage, enjoy some music and dancing, and just have something fun to do.

This year’s installment of the popular festival begins Friday at the Willie Green Community Center and concludes Saturday at the same venue.

“This is our 19th festival,” Ricks said. “Everyone comes together like a big family reunion, learns about their culture, and has a good time.”

The festival begins at 1 p.m. Friday with informative sessions focusing on African ancestry. The sessions will be conducted by Deborah Carter and Ernestine Davis.

The sessions are followed by “Music on the Lawn,” featuring the Come Up Band from Decatur and the Shoals own Midnighters.

Music and dancing play a major role in the African Heritage Festival.

“You can learn about your African heritage and have a good time doing it,” Ricks said.

The festival resumes at 11 a.m. Saturday with the CORE African drummers, followed by gospel music by the Garner Brothers, Donna Carrol and the group Family Affair, featuring the Rev. Shane Rainer and recording artist Amasico Rainer.

The Uhuru Dancers from Atlanta, Georgia, will perform, and Exodus Reggae Band from Memphis, Tennessee, will close out the day.

The Omega Psi Phi Fraternity will hold a voter registration drive, and the local nursing chapter of Chi Eta Phi Sorority will conduct health screenings.

Vendors will offer food, clothing, African attire, paintings and a variety of other items.

Above all, Ricks said, the event is free.

“We couldn’t have made it this far without the city of Tuscumbia, all our vendors and local businesses … and Colbert County Tourism.” Ricks said.

Colbert County Tourism and Convention Bureau Executive Director Susann Hamlin said the event is popular, and the tourism office receives numerous calls about the festival.

Hamlin said it’s the only African American cultural event in the area designed for the public.

“It’s very popular,” Hamlin said. “People really like it, and they have a huge crowd every year. Some of the music and all the dancing most people only see that during the festival.”

Hamlin said the festival creates overnight stays in local hotels with the number of people who come from out of town to participate or sell food or other items.

She said some people might want to venture over to Tuscumbia’s Spring Park and visit the Muscle Shoals Street Road Show on Saturday.

For information, call the tourism office at 256-383-0783, or Ricks at 256-335-2911.

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