Umoja Festival celebrates community

11 umojaThe Umoja Group Inc. presents its 27th Annual Umoja Festival Saturday, Aug. 24, from 12-5 p.m. at Seabrook Park. The health fair portion will be from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. 

“This is our 27th year, said Wanda Wesley, co-coordinator for the Umoja Group. “We are having a community family festival and health fair. So, we are partnering again this year with Cape Fear Valley’s Take Charge of Your Health Program, and they are offering free health screenings. The health part will be inside the Smith Recreation Center and one side of the center will be full of community resources that are health related that support families and children and the other side will be the actual medical doctors and technicians to do more in depth screening for individuals.”    

The word “umoja” means unity. The purpose of the festival is to bring the community together to celebrate arts, crafts and the culture of the community and to share informational and educational opportunities.     

“For the actual festival that kicks off at 12 p.m., we will have entertainment, a proclamation from the city, a special tribute to the elders and there will be a special tent for the senior citizens to sit under so they will be more comfortable,” said Wesley. “One thing about the Umoja Festival that makes it so unique to me is that it is kind of intergenerational, which means we have things for little kids as well as older adults and senior citizens.” 

 Wesley added that the festival will feature a climbing wall from The Climbing Place, and will include the Tokay Rockers, E. E. Smith’s Marching Band, the Chrome Knights Motorcycle Club, antique cars, African storytellers, the NAACP, drummers, a talent show and food, arts and crafts vendors.           

“The Chrome Knights Motorcycle Club supports families in the community,” said Wesley. “They have adopted five schools — Ferguson Easley Elementary, T. C. Berrien Elementary, Margaret Willis Elementary, Westarea Elementary and Walker- Spivey Elementary School,” added Wesley.

She also noted, “What they do is … raise money to support those schools. Over the past three years they have donated over $8,000 in cash and supplies to the children in those schools.”   

There will be free health screenings for the uninsured and underinsured to include blood pressure, diabetes and body mass index readings as well as lung function tests and blood typing. 

“What I really like about this festival is that it is in the community that we support,” said Wesley. “We look forward to everyone coming out to support this great community event.”

The event is free and open to the public. Donations are appreciated. For more information or vendor inquiries call 910-485-8035. 

The word “umoja” means unity. The purpose of the festival is to bring the community together to celebrate arts, crafts and the culture of the community and to share informational and educational opportunities. 

The curtain rises: 2019-2020 theater season

10 kyle head p6rNTdAPbuk unsplashWith local theaters and performing arts groups rolling out their season schedules, there are plenty of top-notch performances from which to choose.

Fayetteville Dinner Theatre

The Fayetteville Dinner Theatre, Gates Four Golf and Country Club and Sweet Tea Shakespeare present “HamLIT,” Sept. 27-28. Imagine, if you will, the writers, director and actors of Shakespeare’s beloved “Hamlet” know the story they want to tell, but they get lost at a fraternity party on their way to the show. Each performance includes a full-service cash bar and wine tasting, duel entrée dinner with two sides. For more information, call 910-391-3859.

Cape Fear Regional Theatre

This season, Cape Fear Regional Theatre offers another great lineup, starting with “Mamma Mia!” The play tells the story of young Sophie, who, seeking to find her father,  invites three men from her mother’s past to her wedding. It runs Sept. 12- Oct. 9.

“No Child” is next in the lineup with a look into the way teachers change lives and build community. Anyone who has taught, attended or has loved ones who attend public school will love it. “No Child” runs Oct. 31-Nov. 17.

Shrek the ogre and his sassy sidekick Donkey take the stage Jan.23-Feb. 16 as the pair set out to rescue an unconventional princess. A show for kids and adults alike, if you liked the movie, CFRT promises you will love the musical. “Shrek” runs Jan. 23-Feb. 16.

“Murder for Two,” is not only a mystery. It’s a barrel of laughs. With one actor playing the investigator and the other playing all 13 suspects — and both playing the piano — this musical comedy/whodunit will have you dying of laughter. It’s onstage March 5-22.

Next up, April 9-26, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” goes straight for your heartstrings. Mrs. Shear’s dog is dead and 15-year-old Christopher is determined to find out what happened. 

The season closes with “Jelly’s Last Jam,” May 14-31. Join jazz pioneer Jelly Morton as he gets a second chance at life. The audience will follow Jelly from the steamy back alleys of New Orleans to the brightly lit stages of New York as he makes good for past mistakes. 

Learn more about CFRT at cfrt.org.

Gilbert Theater

The Gilbert Theater is a semi-professional community-minded theater company and conservatory with a mission to “ … produce creative, innovative plays and events to stir audiences and students of its conservatory to explore and contemplate the human condition through the talents of local and guest artists.”

The 2019-20 season opens with “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” which runs Sept. 20-Oct. 6. 

“It’s a Wonderful Life” has become a holiday tradition at the Gilbert, and this year does not disappoint. It opens Nov. 22 and runs through Dec. 15. 

“Ruins,” a comedy/drama by Montgomery Sutton, is up next onstage from Jan. 24-Feb. 9. 

Get ready for some of the classics with “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare — Abridged” March 20-April 5.

The season closes with “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”

Find out more about Gilbert Theater at gilberttheater.com.

Givens Performing Arts Center

Givens Performing Arts Center in Pembroke has a reputation as a top-notch venue for entertainment. Season ticket holders are invited to upgrade their ticket status and join the Act 1 Diner’s Club. The Diner’s Club includes dinner before specific performances, for just $35. The dinners are served in the Chancellor’s Dining room in the James B. Chavis Center. Learn more about Act 1 at https://www.uncp.edu/resources/gpac/act-1-diners-club.

With five Grammy Awards and an induction into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, The Blind Boys of Alabama have been in the music business for more than 70 years. From traditional gospel music to spiritual works by songwriters like Eric Clapton, Prince and Tom Waits, the group has appeared on recordings with many artists, including Lou Reed, Peter Gabriel, Bonnie Raitt, Willie Nelson, Aaron Neville, Susan Tedeschi, Ben Harper, Patty Griffin and more. They will be onstage at GPAC Sept. 12.

Josh Knott’s and Lea return to the stage with new acts for “Extreme Illusions and Escapes,” Sept. 20. The pair have won the 2016 Merlin Award and the 2016 Fair Award for achieving the highest level in their craft on both national and international stages. Inspired by  Las Vegas-style shows, this performance is fast-paced and includes a variety of stunts — and plenty of audience participation.

Oct. 11 brings “Queen Nation” to Givens. The 90-minute production of Queen’s greatest hits offers tribute to one of rock’s iconic bands. 

“Cirque Mei”from the People’s Republic of China showcases traditional and contemporary Chinese circus acts. The performance showcases 40 elite circus artists and acrobats, who will perform many of the most popular Chinese circus routines including Hoops Diving, Lion Dance, Collective Bicycle Skills, Flying Meteors, Foot Juggling with Umbrellas, Female Contortion and Ladder Balancing Act. The “Cirque Mei”performance is set for Oct. 27.

“Noises Off!” is a comedy by Michael Flynn that has received rave reviews. It’s opening night of the play “Nothing On,” and things couldn’t be worse. Full of glorious surprises and delicious comedy — and the audience gets to see the pandemonium unfold backstage. “Noises Off!” is scheduled for Nov. 14-15.”

Nov. 22, don’t miss the Holiday Extravaganza, which celebrates the holidays with the talented students and faculty of UNCP students and faculty. Enjoy all your holiday favorites performed by choirs, ensembles and more. And don’t miss “Tuba Christmas,” a preshow miniconcert.

Nov. 24, celebrate the holidays with “The Nutcracker,” presented by Dance Alive National Ballet, complete with beautiful costumes and sets and incredibly talented dancers for the Christmas season. 

“Bandstand” a Tony Award-winning Broadway Musical comes to GPAC Jan. 29. Bringing foot-tapping music and heart-stopping dancing, the story unfolds in 1945 just as soldiers return from World War II. 

The New York Times describes the show as “both a peppy celebration of can-do spirit and a more somber exploration of what American servicemen experienced when they marched home from World War II. It’s a great argument for why theater can sometimes tell a story more boldly and more viscerally.” 

GPAC hosts the Siberian State Symphony Orchestra Feb. 18. Founded in 1977, the orchestra quickly won a reputation as one of the best orchestras from Russia. The orchestra plays with the finest Russian soloists and plays the great Russian classics.

Winning a 2016 Tony Award for Best Musical Revival, “The Color Purple” is a classic story about love and triumph in the American South in the early 1900s. It will be onstage at GPAC March 2. The music includes jazz, gospel, ragtime and blues. 

The GPAC season closes April 28 with “An American in Paris.” Bringing romance and adventure to the stage, this production tells the story of life in postwar Paris as World War II veteran chooses to make a name for himself as a painter in Paris. Then he meets Lise, a young Parisian woman who complicates his life greatly. 

Find out more about GPAC and all it has to offer at https://www.uncp.edu/resources/gpac/professional-artist-series.   

Sweet Tea Shakespeare

Fayetteville’s favorite roaming theater troupe has a busy season ahead.

“HamLIT” brings comedy and hijinx to the Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland  County Oct. 4 and runs until Nov. 1. The show plays at Dirtbag Ales in Hope Mills Oct. 10 before moving on to venues in Sanford, Fuquay-Varina and Benson. Come ready to laugh.

STS celebrates the holidays with “Behold,” a Christmas concert featuring familiar gospel tunes. The show focuses on Mary’s story. It’s a stirring and heartfelt show, sure to put you in the holiday spirit. It runs Dec. 4-14.

Jan. 2-15 STS tells a tale of ambition and evil, featuring a king, witches, murder plots and more as “Macbeth” comes to Fayetteville before heading to Raleigh Jan. 23-26.

Lovers, mischievous fairies and well-intentioned actors come together in the comedy “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” It plays April 23-26 at Fayetteville State University and April 30-May 3 at the Poe House at the Museum of the Cape Fear Historical Complex.

Inspired by Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales,” “Knight’s Tale” runs June 4-21 at the 1897 Poe House. 

Find out more about the Sweet Tea Shakespeare season at http://www.sweetteashakespeare.com.

Better Health hosts dodgeball tournament

 09 Diabetes Dodgeball Tournament 1“Diabetes. Dodge It.” That’s the tagline for the annual Better Health Dodgeball Tournament scheduled to begin at 9 a.m., Saturday, Aug. 24. It takes place at Freedom Courts Sportsplex, which is located at 3126 Gillespie St. According to Amy Navejas, executive director of Better Health, this unique fundraiser began because Better Health “wanted to come up with a fundraiser that was new and different for our area, but still highlighted our emphasis on moving and being healthy. After tossing around several ideas (Better Health) settled on the idea of bringing dodgeball to Cumberland County. It’s an incredibly fun, lively and competitive event that brings the community together.” 

 The fundraising goal for the 2019 tournament is $20,000. “Last year we were close,” said Navejas, “so we know that, with the community’s support, we can do it this year. This is a crucial fundraiser for Better Health programs. It allows us to continue to offer emergency medications and dental care to the uninsured, diabetes and nutrition education, (the) childhood obesity program and more.”

 Tournament teams are organized and fielded by various businesses, local gyms, professional organizations and personnel from some municipal departments like the Fayetteville Police Department. “This is a great team-building event,” Navejas said. “A lot of organizations do this as an opportunity for staff to come together, have fun and be active at the same time. We want people to see that there are tons of ways to work physical activity into your routine. It doesn’t have to be just sit-ups and push-ups, which can be daunting.” 

 Founded as a non-profit in 1958 with the mission to provide for the unmet healthcare needs in Cumberland County through assistance, referral and education, Better Health has been providing life-sustaining medications, dental care, diabetes education and medical equipment for over 60 years. Additionally, Better Health offers diabetes management clinics, cooking demonstrations and screening, a childhood obesity program — which teaches an estimated 1,200 children about healthy lifestyle choices — vision care for the uninsured, medical supplies and medical equipment loans. 

 In addition to the tournament, Better Health programs rely on the United Way and other local charitable foundations and trusts for funding, support from local churches and donations from the community at large. Many of the Better Health programs are staffed by health professionals who volunteer their time. Better Health also relies on donations of good used medical equipment such as wheelchairs. These donations are the sole source for its medical equipment loan program.

 “We encourage everyone to come out (for) Dodgeball … on Aug. 24,” said Navejas. “You won’t be disappointed. The closer we get to that final round, the more intense it gets. Let’s dodge, duck, dip and donate.” 

General admission to the tournament is $5 at the door. To find out more about registering a team, visit www.betterhealthcc.org.

The Better Health "Diabetes. Dodge It." tournament is set for Aug. 24. 

Celebrate National Airborne Day in downtown Fayetteville

10 National Airborne DayIn 2002, President George W. Bush, designated “National Airborne Day”’ to honor the nation’s airborne forces. The Airborne & Special Operations Museum, located in downtown Fayetteville, will celebrate the 79th anniversary of the Army’s first official parachute jump Aug. 17, from 9 a.m. to noon. Come out and enjoy displays and re-enactors from the XVIII Airborne Corps, United States Army Special Operations Command and 82nd Airborne Division. 

In 1784, after seeing the first successful hot air balloon flight, Benjamin Franklin envisioned the United States having a military force that could drop from the sky. Fast forward to Aug. 16, 1940, and the U.S. Army successfully conducted its first official parachute jump. It was the birth of the “airborne.”

Here are a few things that you may not know about airborne units and paratroopers. 

Airborne units may or may not perform parachute operations. Some units keep their Airborne designation because of their historical past. Some units that do conduct airborne operations may not have the word “Airborne” in the unit’s name. 

Paratroopers are looked upon with great honor and respect. Those who choose to volunteer to attend Airborne school take on an enormous amount of risk. The training is among some of the hardest training in the military, both physically and mentally. Upon completing training, the student is awarded the Basic Parachute Badge. 

Military parachuting is separated into “static-line” and “freefall” parachuting. Static-line parachuting means that the paratrooper’s parachute is hooked to a cable inside the aircraft and the parachute opens automatically as the paratrooper exits the aircraft. Freefall parachuting is an advance infiltration technique in which the paratrooper opens their own parachute. 

A static-line paratrooper has completed the basic parachute school and has been awarded the coveted Basic Parachutist Badge. 

Military Freefall is commonly done by either High Altitude Low Opening — HALO — or High Altitude High Opening — HAHO. HALO jumpers can exit an aircraft as high as 35,000 feet and open as low as 2,000 feet. HAHO jumpers can exit a plane at 35,000 feet and open their parachute seconds after exiting the plane to fly for miles to their target. 

For those seeking more significant responsibilities, they can attend the “Jumpmaster” course. Not to be confused with the Jumpmaster Badge.  At the Jumpmaster Course, students learn the complexities of being responsible for all aspects of a jump — to include combat equipment, airborne and drop zone operations. Once completing the Jumpmaster Course and additional requirements, a paratrooper that has graduated the Jumpmaster course can earn their Senior or Master Parachutist Badge. 

The Military Freefall Parachute Badge is earned for completing the Military Freefall school. The Freefall badge is a separate badge from the parachute badge. Like the static-line Jumpmaster, Freefall has its own Freefall Jump Master Course. This badge is distinguished by a star and wreath at the top of the badge. 

If you see a paratrooper with a bronze star on their wings, they have parachuted into a combat zone. 

For more history about Airborne or National Airborne day, visit the Airborne and Special Operations Museum, or visit https://www.asomf.org/.

Static-line parachuting means that the paratrooper’s parachute is hooked to a cable inside the aircraft and the parachute opens automatically as the paratrooper exits the aircraft. 

Museum of the Cape Fear Historical Complex brings history to life

11 museum71st Highland Regiment Firing Demonstration Festival of Yesteryear 2017 Credit Museum of the Cape FearThe Museum of the Cape Fear Historical Complex has been educating Cumberland County and the surrounding area since 1988. With a focus on regional history, the complex covers seven acres and is home to a museum, the 1897 Poe House and Arsenal Park. While there are several informational exhibits, the historical complex offers interactive experiences and hosts live events geared to entertain and engage visitors so they can have fun and gain a deeper understanding of a variety of topics while they explore the property.

“The complex is made up of three elements,” said Megan Maxwell, the 1897 Poe House coordinator. “The museum is a regional museum with focus on the Cape Fear area. It has two floors of history exhibits from Native Americans to their first contact with Europeans. (Other exhibits include) the Scottish Highlanders, who founded Cross Creek and Campbellton, (which eventually became the city of Fayetteville). It goes to the early 20th century where we discuss Fayetteville. … We also have an old-time general store, which show what a typical store would look like where most people would shop.”

The 1897 Poe House offers guided tours every day. Maxwell noted that although it’s named after its owner, Edgar Allan Poe, the house belonged to a local businessman, brick factory owner and political activist and not the famed writer. “At the Poe House, people see what life was like for an upper-class family around 1900,” said Maxwell. “We do special events here, as well.  Sweet Tea Shakespeare just finished their summer (theater) season here. I think they have a Green Tea show coming up, too. Green Tea is their youth division. We host weddings, as well.”

The site where Arsenal Park is located used to house an arsenal. The Confederacy used the arsenal during the Civil War to produce rifles, ammunition and gun carriages. Union troops, commanded by Gen. William T. Sherman, destroyed the facility in 1865.

While there is always something to do at the historical complex, the coming months are an exciting time there as well with several events scheduled through the end of the year.

Festival of Yesteryear: Revolution on the Cape Fear

Saturday, Sept. 7, The Museum of the Cape Fear Historical Complex will join with the Lafayette Society to celebrate Fayetteville’s namesake,  Gen. Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette. Lafayette was a French  aristocrat who fought in the American Revolution and commanded American troops in their fight against the British.

There will be a variety of events and activities on the property from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., with activities for kids and adults alike. The festival is set up to give the public a feel for what things were like in the Cape Fear Region during the Revolutionary War era. There will be re-enactors demonstrating everything from woodworking to militia drills. Enjoy demonstrations and check out the toys, games, music and woodworking practices of the time. There will be musical and artistic performances, military firing demonstrations and hands on-activities for kids.

Don’t forget to visit  Apprentice Alley, where children can participate and learn a variety of trades through hands on crafts and activities. Take a photo in the pillory, a wooden frame with holes for your head and hands that was a popular punishment in colonial days.

At 10 a.m., the Cross Creek Pipes and Drums and the Highland Dancers will perform. “If you want to see the Pipes and Drums  — they are amazing — they come in across the footbridge, and we have the Revolutionary War-era flags flying over the bridge,” said Maxwell. “And the Highland Dancers will perform there, too. So to see that, make sure you are there at 10 a.m.”

A puppet show is also part of the day’s entertainment. Maxwell explained that puppet shows were a big part of entertainment during the Revolutionary War-era. “People would set up in the town square and would do dramatic and comedic shows,” she said. “It is interesting to see. A group called Shades of Our Past did a Blackbeard puppet show last year and everyone enjoyed it. This year they are going to do a show themed around Lafayette.”

The puppet show is titled “General Lafayette and the Giant of the Revolution” and will take place at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Shades of Our Past also offers traditional silhouette drawings for a fee.

Actor Stephen Seals of Colonial Williamsburg in Williamsburg, Virginia,will portray James Armistead Lafayette. James was an enslaved African American who served the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War under the Marquis de Lafayette. Seals will be perform as James Lafayette on the main stage at noon and assist with the Lafayette Birthday Cake Cutting at 1 p.m. 

“James was an enslaved spy under Gen. Lafayette,” said Maxwell.  “He was an African American spy for the Continental Army. He loved (Gen.) Lafayette so much that he took his name.”

She added  “It is great to have a (historic) interpreter of that caliber coming to share at the event. We are excited to have him. His big stage performance is at noon with a 45-minute monologue and question and answer session.”

Crowd favorite April C. Turner of Life as Art Productions returns this year to share her program “African Spirituals: Freedom Prayers.”

“Turner comes every year and sings African spirituals,” said Maxwell. “She gives us the perspective of what life was like for slaves and how they coped using song and dance. This performance is at 2 p.m.

There will be military demonstrations, including cannon and musket firings, several times during the event.

Visitors can also learn about Native American life during the Colonial period. Other returning favorites include Camp Flintlock and the North Carolina Highland Regiment.

There will be food truck at the event and concessions for purchase as well. The museum will also be open during the festival and the Poe House will offer tours on the hour. 

The event is free, but the complex does accept donations.

Oct. 23-25 the organization Partners  with Gilbert Theater and do night tours of the Poe House. “It is like historical theater,” Maxwell said. “The actors are in the rooms portraying the Poe family. We run groups through every 20 minutes with 15 people per tour.” There are 540 tickets. They go on sale Sept 7. The admission is $5.

The complex will host a free trick-or-treat Oct. 26. “We have The Sandbox Band out of Raleigh, and we have Joy the clown, who does tricks,” said Maxwell. “We partner with a Jeep club — Nomad Jeeps — and they do a trunk-or-treat. We do a scavenger hunt, too.”

Dec. 8 from 1-5 p.m.,  is The Holiday Jubilee. It is an open house with holiday-themed activities. “It includes a concert, and you can tour the house and look at the decorations,” said Maxwell. “We cook on the 1902 stove and also have apple cider. And Santa comes. Parents can take photos of their children with Santa.”

Find out more about The Museum of the  Cape Fear Historical Complex at https://museumofthecapefear.ncdcr.gov or by calling 910-500-4240.

The Museum of the Cape Fear Historical Complex offers interactive experiences and hosts live events that are both fun and educational. 

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