Charisse Drakefore sat in the Milam Park pavilion and watched as friends and community members, residents from all backgrounds and cultures, danced together in a circle in the center of the shelter.
Kids in the field behind her played tug of war, blew bubbles, and tossed bean bags. Music was in the air, and fun was all around. Her joy was apparent in the smile on her face and the excitement in her words.
“I’m in awe. It doesn’t matter what religion you are. We are all the same,” Charisse Drakefore said.
Milam Park, which was renovated in 2012, was host to a fun-filled, energetic party. It was the Clarkston Community Festival Kickoff, a longtime project of the Clarkston Festival Planning Committee and a snapshot of a larger Festival to be held in 2014.
People playing in the nearby pool heard the music and came to join in the fun. Along with a popcorn machine, free soda and drinks, local restaurants Shewit Eritrean, Abyssinia Café, and Merhaba Shwarma served samosas, hot dogs, and chicken with rice.
“Coming together to do these things is what community is all about. Without it, we’d be blind to each other,” said Drakefore, a Clarkston community member and member at the Clarkston First Baptist Church.
The Festival Kickoff was created to celebrate the multitude of rich cultures and backgrounds present in Clarkston. The Kickoff brought all kinds and colors of people, all here in Clarkston, together to show their costumes and traditional dances. Flags from around the world decorated every table in the pavilion.
The Kickoff has been in planning for several months. The Clarkston Festival Planning Committee created this event to preview and build interest in the Festival they are planning for 2014, and to recruit more help from neighbors and friends.
“This was a true community effort. It was a long time coming but it was worth the effort,” said Kim Ault, a member of the Festival Committee.
The Committee is a group of four organizers, including community member Kim Ault, Angela Moore from the Clarkston First Baptist Church, Nikhil Rao from the Clarkston Community Center, and CDF team member Damber Timsina, who all emerged to take leadership of the Festival this spring,
The Clarkston Community Festival grew out of various initiatives. CDF team members worked to connect various community members who wanted to host a festival. Connections made in CDF-sponsored Community Conversations and Next Steps sessions led to several groups with similar ideas coming together to form the Clarkston Community Festival Planning Committee.
The event opened with the Decatur-based music group CHARM (www.wearecharm.com) singing the National Anthem. Dressed all in white, the four teenagers also sang a remix of “Lean on Me” and their own song, “Set it on Fire.”
“It is about going out and doing the best that you can, and feeling confident in yourself,” said Sidney Wilson, one of the CHARM dancers.
Later, Deborah Strahorn from Kuumba Storytellers (www.kuumbastorytellers.org) told an interactive story, two Burmese dancers performed a dance in traditional costumes, and Sumaya Karimi led the group in an Afghani dance.
The final performers were the Bhutanese Artists of Georgia, led by Deepak Gajmer, who performed stunts and acrobatics. As the festival neared its end, organizer Angela Moore announced a call for support for organizing the 2014 festival.
“Can you imagine an event like this, multiplied by 100?” Angela Moore said. “Celebrating each other’s cultures! Coming together and dancing and singing for hours!”
CDF was pleased to support the Festival Kickoff and the great work and tremendous efforts of the Clarkston Festival Planning Committee by helping with the planning, food, performers, children’s activities, and adult games.
To help the Festival Planning Committee organize next year’s event, or for information, contact the Festival Planning Committee at 404-292-5686 x239 or firstname.lastname@example.org.