Kunta Kinte festival has new site

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Organizers expect heavy crowds to attend this weekend's Kunta Kinte Heritage Festival, which moves for the first time to the Anne Arundel County Fairgrounds.

The 16th annual festival - which highlights African, African-American and Afro-Caribbean culture - will be held from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. tomorrow and from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.

The festival has traditionally been held at St. John's College in Annapolis, but was moved this year because the college is building a new dormitory. It is also expected to be held at the fairgrounds next year.

Last year's event drew about 20,000, and organizers are expecting twice as many people this year.

The festival was started to honor the legacy of Kunta Kinte, who it is believed was one of 98 slaves brought to Annapolis in 1767 aboard the Lord Ligonier.

Kunta Kinte's great-great-great-great-grandson, writer and Pulitzer Prize-winner Alex Haley, brought the story to the doorsteps of America through his epic novel Roots, which was made into a television miniseries.

Labeled as a family and cultural arts event, the festival features music and cuisine straight from the African diaspora.

Vendors and entertainers from around the world will offer an array of ethnic merchandise and accessories. The festival will feature a blend of music, including dance, contemporary rhythm and blues, jazz, gospel and '50s doo-wop.

Among the groups performing are the Legendary Orioles on Saturday and the Sankofa Dance Theater on Sunday.

"We are always very excited about performing at the festival every year, especially for our hometown people in Baltimore," said Diz Russell, lead singer of the Legendary Orioles doo-wop group.

Ramona Green, a veteran organizer and chairwoman of the education tent, said the temporary site is a good one.

"The new location holds more people, allowing more vendors, and much more free parking," she said. With modern stage enhancements shielding the entertainment area, Green said, "The show is set to go rain or shine."

"It is one of the most unique and exciting festivals in the Baltimore--Washington area," added Mike Easterling, who has been one of the event's promoters for the past three years.

"You can come to the festival and expect great acts and great food," he said.

The Anne Arundel County Fairgrounds are on Route 178 in Crownsville. Tickets are $5 for adults, $3 for seniors (ages 62 and older), $3 for children 4 to 12; kids younger than age 3 are admitted free. Information: 410-349-0338 or visit www.kuntakinte.org.

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