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Celebrating W.Va.'s black culture

August 19, 2004|by Cheryl M. Keyser

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Downtown Charles Town will be bustling when the 12th annual African-American Cultural and Heritage Festival gets under way Friday, Aug. 20.

The theme is "honoring our past and present, celebrating our future," said George Rutherford, chairman of the festival and president of the Jefferson County branch of the NAACP, which sponsors the event.

The festival was the idea of the mother of West Virginia NAACP President James Tolbert. The late Ollie Lightfoot Tolbert noticed that few community festivals had African-American representatives. The three-day event was designed to showcase black arts and culture. Charles Town was the

ideal site "as Jefferson County has probably more black history than any other county in the state," Rutherford said.

The festival will open with a youth talent extravaganza. Youngsters from throughout the Tri-State area will perform at Wright Denny School.

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At noon, Saturday, Aug. 21, a parade with motorcycle clubs and marching bands from Washington, D.C., Maryland and West Virginia will proceed from Ranson to Charles Town and end on South Lawrence Street at the festival grounds next to Wright Denny School. Among the parade units will be the award-winning Revenger Majorette and Drum Corps from Berkeley County and the Jefferson High School Marching Band.

Vendor stalls and exhibits will line South Lawrence Street, displaying ethnic products, books, art, jewelry, crafts and collectibles, along with homemade food.

Magician Dewayne Hill of Charleston, W.Va., will perform, and the Karl Miller Revue from Bramwell, W.Va., will sing gospel music.

Children's activities include the moon bounce and pony rides. In addition, throughout the afternoon, Health Pact Inc. will offer free health screenings in the Star Lodge Masonic Building.

Saturday evening, Fabulous Ray Johnson and the Esquires will entertain with their own kind of magic. The eight-member band has worked with Otis Redding, and Smoky Robinson and the Miracles.

A block party for teens will be held at 8 p.m. Saturday in front of the Masonic Building.

At 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 22, the festival will close with a gospel program at the Wright Denny School auditorium.

Cheryl M. Keyser is a freelance writer for the Herald-Mail.

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