HARRISONBURG — A lineup of regional and local acts is slated to perform at this year’s Harrisonburg-Rockingham African-American Festival, which enters its 26th year celebrating the diversity of the community this weekend.
Better By Tuesday, a band from Chesapeake, will be headlining the festival. Other performers include Maleke Jones, a hip-hop artist from Charles Town, W.Va., and locally based rapper Keano “Keynote” Illidge.
Brianna Madden-Olivares, a 2018 Spotswood High School graduate pursuing acting at The New School College of Performing Arts in New York, will be presenting a spoken word piece. Aamir Cobb, a James Madison University alumnus from Richmond, will perform spoken word as well. Singer Jasmine Burrill is also scheduled to perform.
Carol Johnson Raymond, the chair of the Harrisonburg-Rockingham African-American Festival, said the organizing committee made an effort to book young entertainers.
“We just think it’s really important to have young people showcase themselves to the community they live in,” Raymond said.
The African-American Festival, which kicks off at Ralph Sampson Park on Saturday at noon, will also feature craft vendors, food trucks and local nonprofit organizations.
Some of the food vendors include Angelic’s Kitchen, a mobile soul food eatery based in Charlottesville, and Kamau’s Kitchen, formerly known as Cuz & ‘Em Southern Cooking and Seafood, which will officially debut under the new name at the festival.
The African-American Festival is bringing back the community row where local organizations set up displays and informational booths. Participating groups this year include the Northeast Neighborhood Association, Our Community Place, the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Free Clinic, the Harrisonburg Police Department and the FairField Center.
“It’s an opportunity to bring to the community information about the services that are available,” Raymond said.
The marketplace area will feature local vendors selling crafts and other goods, “things you don’t see every day in Harrisonburg,” she said.
Each year, the festival presents Community Champion awards to locals who make a difference, chosen by a committee of six. This year’s winners are Anthony W. Bailey, a judge in the 26th Judicial District’s Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, along with Karron Fields, Elliott Sampson and Darian Pickney, three coaches of the youth basketball team, Friendly City Ballerz.
“We want to recognize their work in the community,” Raymond said.
The youth basketball coaches seek to bring out the full potential of the players, she said, through mentoring.
“It’s really nice when you have young men take an interest in the young kids to help guide their lives,” she said. “It’s really important.”
Festival organizers are expecting an attendance between 500 and 800 depending on the weather. The event ends at 6 p.m. Ralph Sampson Park is located at 431 E. Washington St.