By Shirley Scott

Over the weekend of July 5-7, the first Soul Food Festival was held at Dream Field Farms & Pumpkin Patch located in Fitzpatrick, Alabama. The 3-day event was sponsored by a local organization, Chilly’s Ice Cool Band Foundation and D.I.V.I.N.E. Performing Arts Group of Akron, Ohio. Chilly’s Ice Cool Band Foundation and D.I.V.I.N.E. Performing Arts Group provided dynamic, star-studded entertainment that showcased the epitome of creative arts in sound and motion.

On Friday, July 5, families arrived at the festival and found much to keep them engaged. Children rode the cow train; fed the animals at the petting zoo; tossed beanbags, and played horseshoes.

Other activities available for the children included zip lining and canoeing. Attendees seemed to have felt safe around the water because security from Murray’s Protection Team helped parents keep an eye on the little ones.

The opportunity to shop, for T-shirts, hats, jewelry, handbags, and steel art, was made available by onsite vendors. Concessions served barbecue pulled pork sandwiches, chips, nachos, hotdogs, and hamburgers with other side dishes upon request. The beverage stand housed water, soda, ice cream and other snack items as well. There was plenty to eat and drink to beat the heat.

Later in the afternoon, the barn doors opened at 7:00 p.m. for some boot-scooting boogie moves. Mobile DJ Bubba Culpepper from Bama Country 98.9-WBAM, Montgomery, AL delivered a wide variety of music to produce an energy-filled barn dance and hoe down. The dance began at 8:00 p.m. and concluded at 10:00 p.m.

Although the barn was not full of bodies, the dancers that were present kept the rhythm of the evening rocking the night away. Laughter swelled inside the barn walls as attendees interacted and exchanged dance moves to the Cotton-eyed Joe. Lines were formed to do the Cha, Cha Slide Remix, Cupid Shuffle, Cowboy Boogie, and other line dance favorites.

Saturday, July 6, jumped off at 2:00 p.m. with some fun for the children, again. Chewing and chatting took place as attendees enjoyed a Day on the Green.

Activities were open to everyone. Adults, and the younger folk alike, rode the cow train all around the barnyard with raised arms and loud chuckles.

Around 3:00 p.m., jazz invaded the air as Skylar Saufley, Columbus, GA, started off the set singing and playing all original pieces. His new look only complemented his original blues complete with harmonica. Commissioner Don Larkins recorded Skylar live on Facebook.

Although the lineup of musicians and singers was impressive and spectacular, Alabama Chilly (Councilman Stan Cook) filled in all transitional times with his rich, sultry sounds of music and vivacious vocals. Finger-snapping, toe-tapping, hand waving onlookers were captivated by his stage presence.

Following Alabama Chilly was a legend. James Jackson, Columbus, GA, jazzed things up even more with his electric guitar. He played flawlessly as the audience continued to engage with his high-quality jazz renditions. They rocked, swayed, and raised a hand or two.

American Idol’s Jessica Meuse, went live at 7:00 p.m. She sang several songs from various genres, but one in particular supported the purpose of this event. Jessica sang Landslide written by Stevie Nicks. A line in the chorus of the song suggests that some people might be afraid of changing. Jessica demonstrated a boldness to make a difference in the world through her music.

Leading into the final acts of the show, Cathy Love, 80, made a special appearance. She was saucy and sexy on stage. Love sashayed around the stage in her golden heels, and a flowing teal-flared summer top that draped over her stage-appropriate black spandex shorts. Her smooth copper-toned skin looked youthful and radiant. Love sang some oldies but goodies like, When Something is Wrong With My Baby, Knock on Wood, and I Didn’t Want to Say Goodbye. Her youthful vibrancy left the audience in awe.

Alabama Chilly, featuring Tootie Malone, rendered the final act of the evening. The two of them closed down the Soul Food Festival singing Alabama Chilly’s original song, Uptown.

Sunday, July 7, detonated the Gospel Explosion with a blast! Due to extremely hot temperatures, the scheduled outdoor program was moved into the barn.

Following a soul-searching devotion by some volunteers from the audience, ensemble Ladies of Unity, soloists Betty Adams, representatives from Calvary Baptist Church and Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church sang songs of hope.

The first motivational/inspirational messenger was Rev. Savannah Fitzpatrick, Back to God Ministries. Her message was entitled, Divine Love.

Following the first message was soloist Glenn Person and more songs from the Mt. Zion group, which led into the second motivational/inspirational messenger, Rev. Gene Bridgman, Eastside Baptist Church. He spoke about Our Great High Priest.

Glenn Person and Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church Mass Choir sang before the final messenger spoke.

The last motivational/inspirational messenger was Rev. Roosevelt Grant, Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church. His topic asked, “What is in Your Heart?”

A free-will offering was lifted following each messenger.

To end the program, final remarks were made by Rev. J. N. Robbins of Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church.

Highlights from the long weekend festivities have left many attendees with much to talk about with friends and family.

Among the comments voiced about the Soul Food Festival. Volunteer Carolyn Sullins-Pace shared, “Man, I would have gladly paid to get into this festival! It has been a wonderful experience just seeing people coming together to celebrate.”

L. C. Woodard stated, “This festival was good for Union Springs. I desired to see more people, but I enjoyed everything. If you have anything like this again, I will be there.”

Travelers from St. Petersburg, Florida, Terry and Sharon Gariano said, “We thought this event was well organized and inviting.”

Countess Williams, age 8, noted what she liked about the festival as well. “It was fun being with the other kids. We rode the cow train, went on the zip-line and tire swing. I would come back again because It was fun watching the artist make statues, too.”

Pastor Gene Bridgman, indicated that he is “looking forward to doing this again before too long”.

The Soul Food Festival has evoked positive responses from community members. Several have offered suggestions for the Soul Food Festival plans for next year.

For information about future plans and activities from D.I.V.I.N.E. Performing Arts Group, call Shirley Scott, activities director, @ 727-598-5447. To join a mailing list, email Event calendar coming soon!

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