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Celebration lively, but attendance low

The celebration's organizers say the weekend went smoothly, and they hope that more people show up next year.

By JANEL STEPHENS
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 5, 2003


ST. PETERSBURG -- A three-day African-American festival ended Sunday with rousing performances by local youths and hopes for a bigger turnout next year.

Organizers said the African-American Festival: A Community Celebration ran smoothly but could have had better attendance.

"We did okay for our first time," said Lounell Britt, executive director of the James B. Sanderlin Neighborhood Center. "We have a talented community, so next year, we're hoping it will get better."

The festival, which celebrated Black History Month, was organized by a committee of black leaders and the Palladium Theater to attract more African-Americans to the theater.

Organizers said the event brought a crowd of about 300 during Friday's and Sunday's performances. Saturday's jazz night with percussionist Fred Johnson drew fewer than 100 people.

Britt said the low turnout could have resulted from several factors, including competing events, the way tickets were sold and how the festival was advertised.

She will suggest looking into other ways of selling tickets during a meeting with organizers in the next two weeks.

"One of the things we ought to look at for next year is selling tickets in the community, up front, so that people can buy them and have them in their hands when they get to the door," Britt said. Tickets were sold from the box office before the festival.

Sunday's "Youth on Parade" family day was filled with songs, skits, poems and interpretative dances by area youths.

Derrick Isham and Earth Mission's "Youth on the Move" choir performed Kirk Franklin's medley He Reigns.

Megan Kinsler, 15, Cynthia Sao, 15, and Ryan Kervahn, 16, of the Pinellas County Center for the Arts at Gibbs inspired hand-clapping from audience members with Michelle Branch's Are You Wanted.

Divine Inspiration and Christian Dance moved the audience with their interpretative dance to Yolanda Adam's I Believe I Can Fly.

"We thoroughly enjoyed it," said St. Petersburg resident Lois Titi, who attended Sunday's event with her husband, Sam. "I just wanted to be a part of it."

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