Coming down from Tallahassee to attend the festival were, from left: first grader Joi Fields, second grader Justice Barr and first grader Jianni Barr. They are admiring the ornate diamondback terrapin brought by the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve, one of several nonprofits and government organizations that had booths at the event. [ David Adlerstein | The Times ]
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Singing in the rain

Weather doesn’t wash out festival’s spirit

A weekend full of persistent drizzle and light rain put a damper on the activities of the 31st annual African-American History Festival but it didn’t cancel the celebration.

With the theme “The Dream, The Struggle, The Reality,” the Hillside Coalition of Laborers for Apalachicola (H’COLA) did what it could to make the dream of a successful festival a reality, but ultimately had to cut back on different aspects of the event Saturday and Sunday at Sixth Street, adjacent to the Holy Family Senior Center.

“We didn’t expect a crowd because the weather was so yucky,” said Elinor Mount-Simmons, HCOLA resident. “It didn’t stop the food vendors, many found they did quite well. The weather hindered some things but it was still a successful event.”

The inclement weather did not stop the performances Saturday afternoon of the P & W Trio, out of Albany, Georgia, and Konkoction, out of Panama City.

Nor did it stop the noon festival parade, which was spared even a drop of rain. That parade was led by Grand Marshal Lorine Banks, who as a college student at Alabama State University in Montgomery, took part in a Selma to Montgomery march in 1965, walking only a few rows behind Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Following her graduation from college in 1965, she moved to Apalachicola, where she taught for 38 years in the Franklin County School District.

Following the parade, which included County Commissioners Jessica Ward and Anthony Croom, Clerk of Courts Michele Maxwell, Sheriff A.J. Smith, Terry Tipton, a candidate for property appraiser, and Amy Cook and Teresa Ann Martin, the two declared candidates for tax collector, HCOLA representatives took to center stage to snip the ribbon.

HCOLA officials onstage included Vice President Fonda Davis, Sr. and wife Soudra, Tami Ray-Hutchinson, Greg Perkins, Trina Lockley, Brenda Ash and Sherry O’Neal, as well as City Commissioner Anita Grove.

Following the playing of a recorded version of the Star Spangled Banner, Margaret Conley Daniels from Apalachicola sang “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” regarded as the Negro National Anthem.

After the ribbon cutting, Ray-Hutchinson introduced the Hillside Royal Court, as each of the four young ladies walked the runway and waved to the crowd, assisted by O’Neal. Selected for the honors were Miss Hillside Robyn Sanaa Jones; Junior Miss Hillside Aubrianna Patrice Davis; Little Miss Hillside Rowan Norah-Lynn Ray; and Tiny Miss Hillside Khyla Elizabeth Nicole Wynn.

At the Feb. 9 kickoff event, HCOLA introduced two additions to its 2024 Black Legends collection, which celebrates local men and women in the community who have contributed to the legacy of Apalachicola’s African-American community.

Added were retired Apalachicola Police Chief Anderson Williams and Florida A & M University professor Dr. Dreamal Worthen.

The evening also honored members of the community who for the past 13 years have been an integral part of the “Santa Comes to the Hill.”

These included members of the Apalachicola Volunteer Fire Department, who help power Santa’s gas-powered sleigh, the Project Impact city site, which helps make sure Santa has a place to appear, and Bernard Simmons II, who personally arranges for Santa’s visit.

Because of the weather, Dance Kraze from Panama City could not appear, but they were replaced by Judos, an interactive dance troupe also from Panama City. The ethnic fashion show also had to be canceled.

The weather forced the festival to shut down at 6 p.m. both Friday and night, but that didn’t spoil the indoor Black and Red galas, which called for formal attire. On Friday the guests were age 40 and older, and on Saturday, they were over 21, with Beanie Baby spinning the music each night.

On Sunday, due to the cold, the worship service was moved indoors to Holy Family, and after it concluded, the festival closed, although some food vendors remained well into the afternoon.

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Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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