Off The Record: Heritage Festival up there with the Cats

March 01, 2004|HERB BROCK

It was a Saturday in March 1993 and my assignment was to cover the first Heritage Festival at Danville High School. But I had a scheduling conflict that was bothering me.

I was looking forward to seeing how Danville's first-ever festival celebrating the cultures of African-Americans and other ethnic groups in town was going to go over. But I also was looking forward to a University of Kentucky basketball game as my beloved Wildcats were entering March Madness for the first time in years with a legitimate shot at ending up in the Final Four.

Thus, my dilemma was to fulfill my assignment and cover the festival but complete the task in time to fulfiill my passion and watch the Wildcats.

To be honest with you, I felt I had a very good chance at handling both goals because I thought I could make quick and easy work of the festival. While I thought the idea behind the event was wonderful, I fancied there would just be a few booths with brochures, a couple of people in costumes and a few works of African and African-American art.


Well, after a few minutes of walking around the lobby and gym at DHS, I found myself immersed in the histories and cultures of African-Americans and some other ethic groups as they were presented in literature, art, clothing, storytelling, drama, music and food.

After an hour, I had put up my notepad and dusted off my brain to absorb a lot of interesting information as well as sights, sounds and tastes from around Kentucky, the South, the country and the world.

After another hour, I had almost forgotten about the UK basketball game. I say almost because, as a UK basketball fan, my priorities will forever be hopelessly out of whack.

Yes, the Wildcats did win the game. Yes, they did make it to the Final Four. And yes, UK has gone on since then to many other memorable records and Final Four appearances. But the Heritage Festival also has gone on to become bigger and better and create a lot of good memories itself.

This weekend, the community will celebrate Heritage Festival XI and it will again showcase numerous cultures in various forms, from food to fashion, from art to history, from prose to poetry. As in past festivals, this one again will prove the resourcefulness of festival organizers in mining the community for the unbelievable variety of cultural gems that exist in a small city that, on the surface, would appear to be the epitome of a WASP-ish dominated, Middle America burg.

But cultural variety is a fact of life in this community, thanks in large part to Centre College and Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center, which have attracted many people from diverse ethnic backgrounds to their faculties and staffs, to those people from different cultures and parts of the country and world who have chosen Danville as their home and to the relatively large black population which has helped build the town into what it is today, despite segregation and some other, horrible obstacles placed in its way.

So I invite everyone to sample Danville's rich cultural diversity this weekend by attending an event that has evolved into a first-class festival.

And, my fellow UK fans, the Wildcats don't play till noon Sunday, so you will have plenty of time to go to the festival and take in the game.

Yes, I remain a huge UK fan but I also am a big fan of the Heritage Festival. In fact, I am almost as big a fan of the festival as I am of the Wildcats. Now, that's saying something for a crazy Cat fan.

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