While many festivals try to be diverse, the 2013 Umoja Festival prides itself on bringing all ethnicities together to enjoy a fun-filled two-day event.
From multiple vendors tables to a feast of food, Umoja committee members hope this festival turns out to be the best yet.
Wayne Robertson, a festival committee member, said their diversity efforts provide a little bit of everything for everyone. He said this year there will be five stages in downtown Johnson City for entertainment, a car show on Saturday, as well as crowd favorites like the stilt walkers.
“We seem more ... geared up for it this year, adding different things,” Robertson said.
Chairman Ralph Davis said there’s quite a bit of musical entertainment scheduled for the festival this year.
“Our headliners are The Tams (Friday) and Midnight Star for Saturday night,” Davis said. “We’re also going to have music in the gazebo area after the storytelling. We’re going to have an Irish band in there.”
Other musical and other entertainment acts scheduled to perform throughout the weekend include local and regional DJs, MC Lightfoot, Shaka Zulu and a Call of the Drums performance by the Rev. Vincent Dial with Zulu Connection.
The Umoja 5K run/walk race will begin at 7:30 p.m. Friday, with the race route mapped out through the tree streets neighborhood.
“We’re expecting a lot more participation than we had last year,” Davis said concerning the race.
On Saturday, the Umoja Parade will start at 10 a.m. at Carver Recreation Center and proceed toward the festival site downtown. Arts and crafts vendors also will be on display, selling woodworkings, jewelry and other unique pieces around the festival area.
Food also will be part of the attraction, as native African, Caribbean and Jamaican food will provide the aroma of the festival, as well as other carnival food favorites.
Friday’s schedule is dedicated toward musical acts, vendors tables, and the 5K race, but on Saturday there will be a children’s carnival, a cornhole contest, a wing-eating contest and a Umoja’s Got Talent competition.
Estimating the attendance to be between 25,000 to 30,000, Davis said he is excited to show everyone at the festival what his heritage is, as well as learn a little bit about the other cultures represented.
“It’s important for this area, for us, to showcase our cultures, our community, what we have to offer. To show the rest of the community ... what our achievements have been, and expose them to some things that they probably don’t know about,” he said. “Other ethnic groups too. We want them to show us what their history is about, what they do, what they like. We all need to get along in this world together and the only way to do that is to learn from each other.”
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