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Community Roots: Selections from the Local Legacies Project
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African fire blower performs at Gullah Festival
African fire blower performs at Gullah Festival

Gullah Festival

A five-day celebration of diversity in the arts in Beaufort, South Carolina, this May festival showcases talent from the local, regional, national, and international levels and prides itself on having something to appeal every taste.

At the first festival in 1986, local choirs performed gospel music and spirituals; there was also jazz, storytelling, symphonic music, arts and crafts, and a troupe from Charleston presented a portion of Porgy and Bess. However, the audience was disappointingly small, first festival ended in the red. Although the first few festivals were plagued with financial difficulties, Rosalie Pazant, the festival's founder, persevered, finally winning the support of the former mayor, city and county governments. It took ten years for the Festival to pay its debt to the city. But, each year the Gullah Festival has grown bigger and better, until in 1999, it hosted more than 70,000 people from 32 states and many countries. Storytelling, African dance and drumming, and music ranging from gospel to jazz is performed. Other attractions include displays of fine arts and crafts, cultural workshops, and fashion shows. Boat-building, basket-weaving, and quilting are demonstrated. There is a Black Inventions Museum, and each year the festival recognizes a "Gullah Family of the Year." Recently a Gullah Teen Pageant and a Gullah Golf Tournament were added. A wide variety of ethnic foods, including low-country cuisine, are available. A worship service is given Sunday morning on the waterfront, and a marketplace in Port Royal once used in the slave trade is rededicated in memory of Gullah predecessors. The festival is the recipient of sixteen awards, including ones from both houses of the South Carolina State legislature and the U.S. Congress.

The festival is documented in 11 pages of text, seventeen 8 x 10 photographs, several programs from and two videotapes of the 1999 festival, news clippings, a tee-shirt, and a book , Never Too Late : The Life and Times of a Gullah Woman, an autobiography Rosalie F. Pazant, who, along with her daughters founded the festival in 1986.

Originally submitted by: Strom Thurmond, Senator.

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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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