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African-American festival hopes high attendance

With headlining acts such as hip-hop legend LL Cool J and R&B; duo Ashford & Simpson, the organizers of this month's African American Heritage Festival hope to draw more than a half-million visitors to the three-day cultural celebration.

Mayor Martin O'Malley joined Kweisi Mfume , head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, yesterday to announce that the 28-year-old event, formerly known as AFRAM, will be held June 18-20 at Oriole Park.

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The free celebration of African-American art, culture and history will include 35 music performances, bookmobiles, historic artifacts from churches and libraries, carnival rides and oral history sessions. The festival committee hopes to draw families, wrapping up the event on Father's Day.

Expressing hopes for favorable weather, Mfume, the festival chairman, said he hopes the event will draw more than 500,000 people downtown. Last year's festival was dampened by rain, but the year before, about a half-million people showed up.

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Calling it one of the largest such events on the East Coast, Mfume invited people of all backgrounds to attend.

"And while we are proud to celebrate the African-American contributions to the history and culture of America, we are also proud to remind Marylanders that this is a festival open to all people to experience and to enjoy," he said.

O'Malley echoed those sentiments, saying the festival should embody the city's diversity.

"This is the premier ethnic festival in a city that prides itself in its diversity," the mayor said.

The festival will run from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. June 18, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. June 19 and from noon to 9 p.m. June 20. Information: www.aahf.org


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