Festival stressed safety with help of Rural Alabama Prevention Center providing vaccinations and testing.
The 46th annual Black Belt Folk Roots Festival was held Saturday and Sunday, August 28 and 29 on the old courthouse square in Eutaw as a celebration of local culture and traditions as well as a promotion of personal and community safety amidst the spread of the COVID virus. Before the blues guitars, harmonicas, keys and drums struck a note on Saturday, the coordinators emphasized the measures taken toward the safety of participants and attendees. Everyone present was encouraged to wear a mask and use hand sanitizes frequently. Complimentary masks and hard sanitizes were distributed throughout the two day festivities. The audience chairs were wiped with sanitizing cloths and spaced for safety. Performers’ microphones and instruments shared were also sanitized repeatedly; and the stage area was Lysol sprayed.
Most importantly, vaccinations and testing were available on the grounds from 9:00 am until 2:00 pm on Saturday, provided by Rural Alabama Prevention Center, directed by Mrs. Loretta Wilson. According to Mrs. Wilson, 20 vaccinations were given that day and 27 individuals were tested.
As an additional effort of precaution, fewer vendors were invited to the festival to limit close contacts on the grounds, however, craft artists still showcased their hand-woven baskets, quilts, jewelry, wreathes, hair bows and sundry other home decorative items. The air was heavy with the delightful aromas of foods, including the highly sought-after Polish sausages and Bear Burgers – the creations of Travis Holmes. The wift of frying fish and chicken wings, cooling snow cones and shaved ice, flavored popcorn, and fruit-topped funnel cakes brought added delight to all.
The Old Timey Gospel show on Sunday had the audience on their feet with waving hands and swooning heads. Even a strong, but short-lived down pour did not upstage the spiritual sharing under the big tent.
Throughout its 46 years of production, the Black Belt Folk Roots Festival has served as a venue for family and class reunions, and just a special time to come home to visit, to recall and to celebrate. This festival was also a time to mourn and memorialize family members, friends and neighbors taken, principally, by the killing-virus.
Traditionally, the festival’s Souvenir Book features, In Memorial, individuals who had longstanding connections to the festival. This year, Mr. Hubert Sapp, who founded the annual Black Belt Folk Roots Festival, along with his wife Jane Wilburn Sapp, was so honored, along with Mr. Berlie Daniels, who, with his wife, Liz, formed the Sons of Zion, one of the earliest gospel duets of the annual festival. Angela Smith, noted as an angel songstress, from very young, once shared the festival’s gospel stage with the sister group Glory 2 Glory. We call their names, that their spirits will continue to live among us.
This 46th Black Belt Folk Roots Festival will long hold a special memory among us as the gathering to celebrate in thanksgiving, to comfort each other in loss, and to lift prayers for comfort, mercy and strength to continue on.