Umoja undertakers hope for union of upbeat, unique entertainment

Sue Guinn Legg • Jul 25, 2014 at 11:34 PM

Johnson’s City 18th annual Umoja Festival is set to run Aug. 8 and 9.

Two days of music on two downtown stages; two days of storytelling in Majestic Park; a car show; a bike show; a children’s carnival with train rides; a full block of international foods and traditional festival fare; a full block of craft vendors and community information booths; a 5K Run/Walk; and Umoja’s signature parade with African stilt walkers, dancers, drummers and more, will all be part of the lineup.

The festival will kick off at 3 p.m. Friday and the entertainment will start at 6 with Vincent Dial making the Call to the Drums on the Main Stage at Buffalo Street.

The Billy Crawford Band will lead of Friday night’s music with a blues performance and will be followed by Nashville hip hop artist K-DA, singer-songwriter Shava Jae, urban soul singer Jack Profit, The Company Band and the night’s headline performer, Johnson City’s own rising R&B pop artist Jae Marie.

Main Stage entertainment will resume at 3 p.m. Saturday with an open mic session followed by performances by the Watoto dancers and drummers, Amethysts, the MJ Beck Band, saxophonist Casey McClintock and the night’s headliner, Phaze II.

Music on the Young Adult Stage will begin at 6:45 Friday with DJ Sterl the Perl followed by the UMOJA 106 Perk Style Rap Battle. Now in its fourth year, the popular, profanity-free Rap Battle is known to draw a crowd as children and adults take the stage to rap to anything the DJ plays for cash and other prizes.

The Umoja Gospel Fest will run form 1-4 p.m. Saturday on the Young Adult Stage and will be followed by The African Dolls and a closing performance by and DJ Sterl. This year’s Gospel Fest will feature Thankful Mind, Christian rapper Aaron Cole, Vashti, Aretha Scott, Jordan Copas and several others.

“It’s going to be a blessing, Gospel Fest is,” Umoja Committee member Vicki Briscoe said. “And the Rap Battle is just a blast.”

Committee member Joe Bradley said, “All our entertainment this year is really upbeat where everyone can get up and dance and really have a good time. We think this will be one of the biggest events we’ve had and we want everyone to come and bring their lawn chairs, sit down and enjoy the show and get up and dance all night.”

Storytelling at the Majestic Park Gazebo will begin at 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday and will feature Dr. Joseph Sobel of East Tennessee State University’s Storytelling Program as festival’s storyteller in residence. Hawaiian storyteller Jeff Gere and the Re-Generation Story Slam also will be featured.

New to the festival this year will be a motorcycle show featuring the Vicious Hogs riding club of Raleigh, N.C.. They will have their bikes on display throughout the festival and roll though town in Saturday morning’s Umoja Parade.

The parade will begin at Carver Recreation Center at 10 a.m. and will proceed along Unaka Avenue and West Walnut Street to Commerce Street. Carver Recreation Center Director Herb Greenlee will serve as the parade’s grand marshal with the Shriners’ Color Guard leading the way for the Shaka Zulu stilt walkers, the Wototo drummers and dancers, the Shriners’ tiny precision motorcycles and many others.

The Umoja Car Show will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday in the parking lot at Commerce Street and Windsor Way. The show will conclude at 5 p.m. with a trophy presentation for the top finishers in each division.

The 5K Unity Race Run/Walk will start at 7:30 p.m. Friday behind the main stage. A sanctioned Johnson City 5K event, the road course will follow Buffalo Street across State of Franklin Road, wind through the Tree Streets and return downtown. Registration may be completed in advance online at www.werunevents.com or Friday evening before the race.

The children’s carnival will be set up in the parking lot of the Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church on East Market Street and will feature blowup attractions and activities, including a children’s train ride along East Market, North Roan and Buffalo streets back to the church.

The festival’s food court, featuring a wide variety of international foods and traditional festival fare, will be set up along Market Street and merchandise vendors and booths with free information about local health and service organizations will be located on Main Street.

“We have vendors coming from all over the country and we have people coming from all over the country,” committee member Loraine Washington said. “A lot of families have reunions during Umoja and people come from New York, Michigan, Pittsburgh, Florida and, of course, we wouldn’t have an Umoja Parade without Shaka Zulu from New Orleans.”

More information about the festival, including a complete schedule of events, can be found online at UmojaJC.org.

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