The 21st annual African American Heritage Festival will be packed with entertainment and fellowship for another year of celebrating "unity in the community."
The festival from the African American Heritage Project of Blair County takes place from noon to 8 p.m. Saturday on the Penn State Altoona campus.
"This is our 21st year and we've been real blessed and happy to be up at Penn State Altoona. It's a great setting, and we're looking for a real nice festival this year. We have some good entertainment and a lot of good vendors coming in again," said Will Lightner, festival chairman.
Mirror file photos by Patrick Waksmunski
Ernestine Pearson (left) watches her daughter Kelli Hardy, both of Altoona, prepare wonton dumplings at their food stand during the 20th annual African American Heritage Festival held at Penn State Altoona campus last year.
Dancers Yasheena Moultrie and Sheba Gittens perform with the Ibeji Drum Ensemble of Pittsburgh during last year’s festival. The Ibeji Drum Ensemble will also be performing this year.
The festival, which started out at Garfield Park, will offer a "great day" for attendees, he said.
Harriett L. Gaston, African American Heritage Project of Blair County chairwoman, said the day will begin with the local Christ Ministry Praise Choir.
A recognition of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and those from the area who served will take place, and the Christian-focused Daniel D'Lion will entertain kids in the event's area for children.
If you go
What: The 21st annual African American Heritage Festival
When: Noon to 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Penn State Altoona campus
Admission: Free, $1 parking donation, come to Juniata Gap entrance
Musical entertainment will have an "African American focus," Gaston said.
Altoona step group Platinum Soujahz and three acts from Pittsburgh - the Ibeji Drum Ensemble, R&B and Soul group House of Soul and jazz saxophonist Derek Redd - will perform.
A local talent showcase, including a fashion show with local models, will also take place.
Dancer Mia Nelson, 11, a student at the Blair Dance Academy, is making her second appearance at the festival this year.
"Oh my goodness, yes!" she said when asked if she was excited to return.
"It was nice. There (were) a lot of people there. When I danced I got a lot of compliments," she said of her involvement last year. "I was scared before the dance but, you know, that's normal for a dancer."
She will do another jazz routine this year, she said.
Her mom, Tiffeny Newman of Altoona, said her daughter being asked back was an honor.
Not only are they excited for Mia's encore performance, but "to see the other talent" at the festival, she said. "It's always nice whenever you get to see different talent that you don't usually get to see ...just the different type of ethnicity that we get to see in our area."
Among what attracts people to the festival is fellowship, Gaston said.
"This particular time period is kind of like a family reunion. One of the reasons why we pick it is because it is connected to a reunion of what was called the Sunday School picnic," she said. "It's been going on for 81 years, and it's always been the fourth Friday of July and so these are folks who are coming back to see family."
The event is meant "to have unity in the community," she said, quoting Lightner's catchphrase.
Mirror Staff Writer Amanda Gabeletto is at 949-7030. Follow her on Twitter (@AmandaGabeletto) or on Facebook (Amanda Gabeletto Altoona Mirror)