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Tuscumbia’s North Alabama African Heritage Festival ‘a big family reunion’

TUSCUMBIA — The annual North Alabama African Heritage Festival brings music, learning, and family fun to Willie Green Recreation Center in Tuscumbia this weekend.

Wallace Ricks, president of the North Alabama African Heritage Association, said the festival is a chance for the community to come together and relax.

“It’s like a big family reunion,” he said. “Everyone enjoys being outdoors, eating, listening to music. It’s good for the kids for everyone to be together.

“We have people come in and stay the whole weekend, get hotel rooms, camp, buy groceries, and eat out. It’s a way to have a good time and be of service to our city.”

The festival, in its 21st year, begins at noon Friday with a Cultural Lecture Series by Dr.
Deborah Carter of Shoals Natural Healthcare Center. Willie Green Recreation Center is at 609 S. East St.

After Carter’s presentation, stick around for a demonstration of old handmade toys, before kids were texting, Snapchatting, TikTokking, and when gaming could’ve referred to hide-and-seek, dodgeball, jump rope, or hopscotch. Organizers welcome attendees to bring their own childhood toys to display alongside wooden scooters, stick horses, stilts, and slingshots.

“We used to take the wheels off old worn-out roller skates and nail them on two-by-fours and add a broom handle to make a scooter,” Ricks said when asked about his old toys. That was hands-on ingenuity.

Friday’s entertainment begins at 5 p.m. on the rec center lawn as Decatur’s Come Up Band
kicks off the music followed by the blues of King Tut.

Saturday’s events begin at 11 a.m. with a gospel show featuring Rev. Chris Neloms, Rev.
Shane Rainer, the Garner Brothers, and the famed Orr Sisters, who got their start in Courtland.

Kicking off the afternoon entertainment, crowd-favorites Uhuru Dancers and drummers from Atlanta will perform at 2:30 p.m., followed by Memphis’ Exodus Reggae Band. King Tut will return for an encore performance. Closing out the festival will be Shoals-favorites The Midnighters.

Ricks said traditional African cuisine will be available along with other festival favorites such as smoked turkey legs, wings, fries, brisket sandwiches, hamburgers, hot dogs, nachos, and funnel cakes.

“We have a guy coming from Mississippi who always has a line for his food,” Ricks said. “And we will have shaved ice for the kids.”

Clothing and other items will be offered by many onsite vendors. Children will have a play area with games and fun, too.

And, don’t forget your lawn chairs and blankets.

There is no charge for admission thanks to the sponsors and patrons of the North Alabama African Heritage Association.

“We couldn’t do this without our sponsors,” Ricks said. “We really appreciate their help.”

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