Gullah Festival set for Memorial Day weekend
The annual Original Gullah Festival will return May 26-28 at Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park.
The theme for this year’s festival is “Come Home to A Celebration of Reconstruction…The Untold Story.”
The festival will showcase the story of a people determined to persevere out of the bondage of slavery to full citizenship from the ashes of the Civil War, organizers said. This era of history was birthed on the Sea Islands of Beaufort County.
By presidential proclamation on Jan. 12, Beaufort County was designated the Reconstruction Era National Monument of the National Park Service. This month’s 31st annual festival celebrates this honor and the role of a rich Gullah heritage in shaping a remarkable period in American history.
Celebrations begin at 10 a.m. May 26 with a Gullah village where re-enactors will share the Reconstruction story.
There will also be a Gullah marketplace with more than 40 craft and food vendors, history seminars, Reconstruction tours, museum exhibits and a film festival. Entertainment begins at 1 p.m. Admission is free during the day.
Friday’s premier event is the Reggae R&B All-White Attire Waterfront Party at 9 p.m. Admission is $30.
The festival continues at 10 a.m. May 27 with a drum call, tours, Robert Smalls and Black Inventors Traveling Museum exhibits, film festival and the craft and food vendors marketplace. Entertainment includes “Gullah Gullah Island” Nickelodeon TV stars Ron and Natalie Daise, Dr. Marlena Smalls and the Hallelujah Singers, Gullah Geechee Ring Shouters, neo-soul music, the Wona Womalan West African Drum & Dance Ensemble and the Gullah village.
The Reconstruction story will be told through re-enactors, singers, dancers and other presenters. The Robert Smalls family will be honored as the Gullah Family of the Year during the festival’s official opening ceremony at noon at Waterfront Park. Admission for Saturday’s events is $20 for adults and free for children 12 and younger.
The full-stage musical “Decoration Day…An Old Fashion Memorial Day” is scheduled for 4 p.m. May 27 at Tabernacle Baptist Church, 901 Craven Street. It stars award-winning storyteller Aunt Pearlie Sue and her Gullah Kinfolk performers. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for children.
Festival goers are asked to put on their dancing shoes Saturday evening for the Silver Slipper Supper Club Dance co-sponsored by the Beaufort County Black Chamber of Commerce and Beaufort Inn Tabby Place.
New to the festival this year, the event features live music by Gwen Yvette & Company and D.J. Topher. Tickets are $30 for general admission or $45 for early dinner seating at 8 p.m.
An “Hour of Power” service begins at 9 a.m. May 28 at Waterfront Park. The commemorative marker rededication of the African Landing follows at 11 a.m. on 11th Street off Paris Avenue in Port Royal.
The festival resumes 1 p.m. at Waterfront Park with the Gullah marketplace, Gullah village, tours, traveling exhibits, praise dancing and the gospel songbird Mildred Daniels.
There will be an Unknown Soldier Memorial ceremony by the Women’s Relief Corps, a performance by the Beaufort Mass Choir and a concert by the Parris Island Marine Corps Band. Admission is free to all events on Sunday.
For tickets and more information, go to www.theoriginalgullahfestival.org.