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Kentucky State University Marching Band, September 1999
Kentucky State University marching band in Festival Parade, September 11, 1999. Photo: Thomas A. Adler

Roots and Heritage Festival and Parade and African American Marketplace

Held annually September as four-week-long series of events, the Roots and Heritage Festival promotes pride and cultural continuity among area residents through cultural exchange and highlights contributions by African-Americans. It is sponsored by the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government and corporate sponsors throughout the area and is organized and planned by local volunteers with the aid of local government officials.

The Roots and Heritage Festival includes a parade, art exhibits, health fairs, concerts and symposia, recreational activities, poetry readings, plays, speakers, a formal ball, film presentations, children's activities, and a two-day street festival. African-American artists are featured and festival-goers get a chance to meet the artists and purchase their signed work. The parade takes place along Lexington's Rose Street Extension. Two performance states featuring guest speakers, spirited music, singing, African dance, a fashion show and a large variety of other activities for young and old highlight this all-day festival.

Stage I is the main stage and serves as the guest speaker's platform and an arena for key entertainment, which has included some nationally known speakers and performers. Pulitzer-Prize-winning author Alex Haley helped propel the success of the festival by being its first guest of honor during the 1989 event. Awards and presentations to promote ethnic pride are given to area African-Americans who have made a difference. Former award recipients have included sports figures, educators and others who have made an impact in the African-American community.

Stage II provides enjoyment primarily for and by young people. Performers have included story-tellers, dancers, rappers, singers, and actors. A children's arena also provides a place for young children to enjoy activities such as street-mural-painting, body adornments, and mask making.

The festival ends with the soulful sounds of gospel music, a mainstay of African-American culture. Local and regional church choirs and soloists from various denominations perform.

The African American Marketplace, where vendors come from across the country, presents an opportunity for festival-goers to purchase ethnic foods, jewelry, African art pieces and novelty items.

Project documentation comprises two four-page narratives, eleven slides with captions, a brochure, and a "souvenir booklet" entitled: "11th Roots and Heritage Festival (1999)."

Originally submitted by: Ernie Fletcher, Representative (6th District).



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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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