DELRAY BEACH — If you’re looking for something fun – and free – to do on Saturday, you might want to check out the Spady Living Heritage Festival.
Sponsored by the Palm Beach County Tourist Development Council and the Palm Beach County Cultural Council, the one-day event returns on Aug. 22 from noon to 10 p.m. at The Spady Cultural Heritage Museum in Delray Beach.
Through live demonstrations, the festival offers an invaluable and entertaining history lesson as it shows visitors how our ancestors lived – and prospered — off the land. The festival is in its fourth year and has grown in popularity every year.
Last year, over 6,000 visitors attended. Due to increased marketing efforts, organizers expect that number to increase to 10,000 this year, while a host of popular entertainers, storytellers and cooks return to delight children and adults alike.
“This is something of interest to all people,” said Daisy Fulton, the museum’s executive director. “It’s a cultural educational experience that’s full of fun and activities. And in these tough economic times, that our festival is free is another draw.”
The Spady Cultural Heritage Museum is the former home of the late Solomon D. Spady, who was the most prominent African-American educator and community leader in Delray Beach from 1922 to 1957, according to the museum’s Web site.
The house is a historic, two-story Mission-Revival-styled home completed in 1926. It is located on the Spady Cultural Heritage Complex in Delray Beach.
The museum is the brainchild of Vera Rolle Farrington, a retired Palm Beach County educator, historian and native South Floridian. Under Farrington’s leadership, the museum opened in July 2001 and has become a resource for people seeking information about the city’s early black history and culture.
Saturday’s event will feature live musical entertainment, a vintage farm exhibition, the storytelling of Butch “the Florida Cracker” Harrison; an expanded children’s area and the Tradition Bearers of Renaissance Park.
Some of the performers scheduled to appear include Strictly Business Band, the Bahamas 2 Miami Junkanoo Revue, DYMiN, Gospel Angels and the Jr. Drinkwater Blues Band.
The music will run the gamut from R&B, to gospel, to blues. There will also be a step show.
Young children can enjoy face painting, pony riders, a bounce house and a petting zoo.
“It’s exciting for the kids,” Fulton said. “They say, ‘This is what my mom used to do when they were growing up and now I can do it, too.’”
As for good, old-fashioned soul food, there’ll be plenty of that on hand as well – everything from fried collard greens to fried cornbread.
You can also expect a cool history lesson as the Tradition Bearers of Renaissance Park will show visitors how to make straw brooms, lye soap and various other crafts.
“Many of our elders were brought up in rural areas and now they have the opportunity to reminisce and share their experiences with a new generation,” Fulton said. “Today we waste so much food. Back in those years, we didn’t waste anything.”
No money, however, was wasted in organizing the event. The price tag for last year’s festival: $38,000. With a reduced budget, that number shrank to about $25,000, Fulton said.
“We had to think more creatively this year,” she said. “But we weren’t going to cut our program at all.”
For instance, the Tradition Bearers will be housed in not one tent, but six this year.
“They still have the big tent, but they will also be separated into five smaller tents,” Fulton said. “Last year, everybody was clustered under one tent and breaking it up will make for a better presentation.”
As for the festival’s increasing popularity, Fulton said it makes all her Herculean efforts worthwhile.
“I just want to do more,” she said. “I know there are a lot of festivals in Florida, but there’s nothing quite like this one. It’s so important because we can’t lose the connection from where we came.”
Photo: A group dressed in colorful costumes participates in a previous Spady Living Heritage Festival.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Spady Living Heritage Day Festival
WHEN: Saturday, Aug. 22, 2009, noon to 10 p.m.
WHERE: The Spady Cultural Heritage Museum, 170 NW 5th Ave., Delray Beach
CONTACT: 561-279-8883 or log onto www.spadymuseum.com