FORT LAUDERDALE — On the last day of Black History Month – Feb. 28 – the historic Sistrunk Festival will return to the streets of the Sistrunk corridor. This will be the second year that the festival has moved from Reverend Samuel Delevoe Park.
This year, the location of the street festival will change as well as the direction of the parade, according to Margaret Haynie-Birch, the festival committee co-chair.
Last year, the festival was held on Sistrunk Boulevard between Northwest 8th and Northwest 15th avenues, “but we had to change its location,” Haynie-Birch explained. “We found it to be more financially feasible to relocate between the CSX tracks on the east, and Northwest 27th Avenue to the west.”
The CSX tracks, originally named Seaboard Air Line, run mostly alongside Interstate 95.
Haynie-Birch said splitting the cost of police officers between the city of Fort Lauderdale and Broward County “was simply a better move.”
The land between the CSX tracks and the canal is located in Fort Lauderdale. From the canal west to Northwest 27th Avenue is in unincorporated Broward County.
“Our cost is down by using both the county’s and Fort Lauderdale’s resources,” said Walter Haynie, the festival committee co-chair. “We received financial support from the city of Fort Lauderdale and its commissioners. They too are supportive of us being back on the street.”
Haynie said taking the festival to the street boosted last year’s attendance to about 9,000 after years in which the festival struggled with financial problems and dwindling attendance, “and we’re expecting more next month.”
The Sistrunk Festival was at one time one of the largest events in the South Florida region, Haynie said, “and we want to get back to that. The first step was to get back on the street, and the way to get back on the street is to get the city and the county to give their support. They have done that. There are really no other Black History Month celebrations like it. Our main goal is to get back to a weekend festival.’’
Haynie-Birch admitted that removing the festival from Delevoe Park caused the committee to lose a huge revenue stream, “but it’s considered a community event, not a financial whirlwind. We don’t get to charge an admission fee now that it’s on the street, but it’s about celebrating our history and culture, giving the community something it needs.”
The parade route this year will be reversed. Traveling from east to west, it will kick off from New Mount Olive Baptist Church at 400 NW 9th Avenue in Fort Lauderdale, and end at Reverend Samuel Delevoe Park, 2520 NW 6th Street, near Fort Lauderdale.
“We’ll go back to what we’ve done in the past,” Haynie-Birch said about the change. “Last year, we felt that if we started the parade from the west, and moved east to the festival, it would bring the people. So we’ll reverse it, because the outdoor festival will be on the corridor’s west side.”
Broward County Administrator Bertha Henry will serve as the parade’s grand marshal.
Haynie-Birch said a festival committee board member suggested Henry, the first black woman Broward County administrator, and “hands down, we decided not to look or discuss it further. We were all pleased with our decision. We could not think of a better person, and are happy to recognize her publically.”
The event will include two stages, one at each end of the festival, Haynie-Birch said. The main stage will be set up on the west side near the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center (AARLCC).
Caribbean music, gospel music, R&B and Hip-Hop performers including Bobby Valentino, Brisco, David Lyn, Cuttaman, Legacy and DJ Raymer will perform.
“We have also invited spoken word artists and dance teams,” Haynie-Birch said. “We look for the best in entertainment; individuals and groups who are positive and appealing to all ages.”
Other family activities will include a bounce house, food and vendors.
“We planned something for everyone,” Haynie-Birch said.
The Annual Sistrunk Gala, an event usually held during February, has been postponed until May 30, Haynie-Birch said.
“Realizing the cost of having the police department at the east end of the festival threw us back,’’ she said. “We had some serious thinking and planning to do, and that required a lot of time.”
Haynie-Birch said the festival committee, at that time, could not focus on both events “and have the success we wanted with the festival. The board is simply too small; everyone works full time. After February 28, we can all then refocus and plan the gala.”
The Sistrunk Art exhibit will be held throughout the month of February. Artwork donated by the festival committee will be on display in the library’s lobby.
The Sistrunk Festival is seeking volunteers for its committee, the festival and other events throughout the year. For information on participating, visit www.sistrunkfestival.org or call 954-687-3472
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Sistrunk Festival Parade and Street Festival
WHERE: The parade will kick off at New Mount Olive Baptist Church, at the corner of Northwest 9th Avenue and Northwest 4th Street. The festival will take place on Sistrunk Boulevard from the Seaboard railroad tracks to Northwest 27th Avenue.
WHEN: Saturday, Feb. 28. Parade kickoff at 9 a.m.; the street festival will take place from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
COST: Free and open to the public.
CONTACT: www.sistrunkfestival.org or call 954-687-3472.
WHAT: Sistrunk Art Exhibit
WHERE: African-American Research Library and Cultural Center, 2650 Sistrunk Blvd., near Fort Lauderdale.
WHEN: Feb. 1 – 28. Library hours: Mon-Weds, 10 a.m. – 8 p.m., Thurs- Sat, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., Sun, 1 – 5 p.m.
COST: Free and open to the public.