Annual Black Belt Folk Roots Festival returns in live production August 28-29, on old courthouse square in Eutaw

By Carol P. Zippert

The annual Black Belt Folk Roots Festival, produced by the Society of Folk Arts & Culture, has been held in Eutaw, Greene County, since 1975 as a community celebration. Last year, the festival production was virtual, due to the COVID 19 pandemic, but beginning in early Spring of 2021, the constant inquiries were concerns and encouragements on bringing the live festival back. This year we are celebrating the 46th anniversary of the annual Black Belt Folk Roots Festival live on the old courthouse square in Eutaw, scheduled for Saturday August 28 and Sunday August 29. We hope that the continued decrease of coronavirus positive cases and the continuing vaccinations of residents will provide for a relatively safe environment for this year’s festival. Every precaution will be observed to assure the safety of all participants and attendees at the festival, encouraging everyone to wear masks, use hand sanitizers regularly and keep safe distances around vendors and in seating. There will be a limited number of vendors on site in keeping with the safety measures. The underlying theme of the Black Belt Folk Roots Festival has always been an acknowledgement of How We Made It Over. The handcrafted items, including quilts, baskets utensils and others, speak to the necessity of these in earlier times. Quilts were sewn for warmth in winter; baskets had various household uses including carrying cotton from the fields, and as essential for laundry day tasks. Even the foodways demonstrate how our elders, having access to only cast-off items, took what they had to make what they needed. The regional musicians who gather for the Ole Timey Blues show on Saturday, remind us of the struggles of yesterday and how we face similar struggles in our living today. Sunday’s Ole Timey Gospel show, in turn, reminds us of our perseverance, faith and hopefulness that carried us through struggle. The annual festival will again feature a Children’s Tent where artists will engage the young people in hands-on art activities. The purpose is to help our youth find their place and voice in this cultural celebration. The annual Black Belt Folk Roots Festival is generally embraced as the countywide community celebration, which speaks to and touches the lives of everyone’s history and culture. The festival is a time when family and school classes plan reunions in the county to coincide with festival dates. Family members and various classmates living away come home at festival time to celebrate home – family, church, school, athletics, postsecondary training, weddings and other social milestones. Barring public health mandates to cancel, the annual Black Belt Folk Roots Festival will be live on the Thomas Gilmore Courthouse Square in Eutaw on Saturday August 28, with the blues show beginning at 11a.m. and Sunday August 29, with the gospel show beginning at 2 p.m. As a community celebration, there is no monetary admission fee. Come with good will and a disposition toward safety.

Festival offers soulful music of hardship and triumph

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The annual Black Belt Folk Roots Festival features Ole Timey Blues artists on Saturday and Ole Timey Gospel artists on Sunday. There is no contradiction in the appreciation of both. As the elders tell it: The wailing blues tell the stories of our struggles, hardships, heartaches, lost loves and lost lives. The prayerful gospel music lifts the stories of our faith, determination, perseverance and How We Made it Over. Many of the founding festival musicians are no longer with us, including Willie King, Bo McGee, Jesse Daniels, George Conner, members of the Echo Gospel Singers, members of the Tishabee Male Chorus, members of the New Gospel Travelers. Shown above are festival founders Clarence Davis, Lemon Harper, Burlie and Liz Daniels, who, along with many others, will be with us at this year’s festival, Saturday August 26 and Sunday August 27 on the Old Courthouse Square in Eutaw, AL.