DOVER — Following last year’s absence, the African American Festival will once again fill Legislative Mall with entertainment, food and fun this weekend.
There was great disappointment among event organizers when last year’s festival — which would have been the 30th — was minimized to a small outdoor celebration at the Inner City Cultural League.
Though the pandemic halted major activities last June, the socially distanced event did include a limited number of performers and guests and was shown on Facebook Live and YouTube.
According to Kathrina Stroud, organizer of the festival, the 2021 festivities — taking place from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday — will follow Division of Public Health guidelines. In addition, there will be fewer vendors in attendance, and mask-wearing is highly recommended. Also, the moon bounce will not be used.
Ms. Stroud said that one of the disappointments of not having the full festival during the pandemic was the inability to see people she considers friends.
“Believe it or not, we’ve got relationships (with vendors) going back years and years and years,” she said.
There will be a COVID-19 vaccination site hosted by DPH as part of the festival, and those who get their shots will be eligible for the DE Wins! incentive program.
The African American Festival started in 1991 as an arts-and-crafts event, founded by then-Dover City Councilman Reuben Salters and then-state Rep. Donald Blakey at Mirror Lake. But once the area was flooded by rain around 1995, the festival was moved to Legislative Mall.
At first, the event included just several pieces of artwork, drummers and dancers. But as attendance increased, so did word of mouth, on both a local and national level. As a result, the number of visitors grew to approximately 5,000, and local officials began to attend.
Performers this year include the Millennium gospel singers led by Don Ashley, the Sankofa African Dance and Drumming Ensemble, the Trinidad and Tobago Baltimore Steel Orchestra and more.
“As far as entertainment, we’ve got back some of our favorite entertainers. We don’t skimp on the entertainment side of things,” said Ms. Stroud.
Also in attendance will be local dignitaries such as Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen, Gov. John Carney, U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del., and various Dover City Council members.
The festival will start with a procession at 11 a.m., when local leaders and others will walk around Legislative Mall. Following, there will be a time for people to speak onstage about various African American topics. Ms. Stroud anticipates that many will talk about Juneteenth officially becoming a federal holiday.
Festivities will end around 5 p.m., earlier than previous years, allowing vendors and others to pack up before dark.
Both Ms. Stroud and Mr. Salters said their favorite part of the African American Festival is the community aspect and they are thrilled to be back in 2021.
“We’re just so happy to be back in action and able to provide some entertaining activities for the citizens of Delaware,” Mr. Salters said.
This article was produced with support of a grant from the Delaware Community Foundation. For more information, visit here.