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Dozens attend African American Cultural & Heritage Festival

August 18, 2007|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - For 7-year-old Ciara Williams, it was all about the Moon Bounce.

For her older brother Maurice, it was the parade.

And for their mother Linda, it was the chance to see her parents' favorite R&B group, The Orioles.

Whatever the reason, dozens of people attended the African American Cultural & Heritage Festival Saturday in downtown Charles Town.

"We have so many people here, and they're all having a good time," said George Rutherford, the event's organizer. "I tell you, it's a pleasure to do this, and it only gets better every year."

Rutherford said more than 400 people had attended the festival by Saturday.

The four-day event, which was sponsored by the West Virginia chapter of the NAACP, started Wednesday night with a forum sponsored by a local youth group on hip-hop's effect on the community. The Betty Roper Auditorium was packed Friday night for the Youth Extravaganza, which included more than 23 groups performing music, dance and poetry, Rutherford said.

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Saturday featured the festival's main event, a noon parade from South George Street to Wright-Denny Intermediate School. About 10 marching bands participated in the parade. Many of the groups performed after the parade as well, Rutherford said.

Maurice Williams said the parade, and the performance afterward, was his favorite part of the festival.

"I liked watching all the bands come down the street," Maurice said. "And it was cool to see them play back here after they were done, too."

Linda Williams was excited about the festival's music, too, though it was the event's headline act, The Orioles, that she was most eager to see. The Orioles began in the late 1940s as an R&B group out of Baltimore. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.

"They were my mom and dad's favorite group," she said. "I used to hear them all the time growing up, so I got to like them, too. I can't wait to see them."

Rutherford said many of the festival-goers were there to see The Orioles.

"They're huge," Rutherford said. "They were to the '50s what The Temptations were to the '60s."

But Rutherford was quick to point out that the festival included a slew of other activities.

"We've got something for everyone," Rutherford said. "You can listen to music, eat, relax, just hang out, check out exhibitions. Anything, and it's all free."

The festival will continue today with a gospel program by the Gospel Descenders and the Versatiles at 3 p.m. in the Betty Roper Auditorium.

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