Footwash Festival begins Friday

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 24, 2003

It’s a festival that has been strictly associated with gambling and exotic dancing.

But according to University of Alabama African Studies Professor Amilcar Shabazz, this is a festival of historical significance, and of great importance, especially to African Americans all over the United States.

It is called the Footwash Festival, a festival that is held every fourth Sunday in September in Hale County, Alabama.

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Shabazz said that fellow travelers from all over the country attend the festival, which is filled with black cultural artifacts as well as fun and interesting activities that represent the African American culture.

According to a University of Alabama Web site, the festival includes different forms of gambling from craps to poker, including games like Find the Nut, Three Card Monte, Find and the Lady (Britain), and Bonneteau (France).

The festival also includes exotic female dancing that is held in a tent &045; something that has generated controversy among those who have attended the festival.

Shabazz, though, doesn’t see that as a major problem for the festival.

Uniontown Mayor Philip White said that he is for the festival being held in Hale County, and that the festival generates money both for the city of Uniontown, and the county itself.

White said that the festival allows family members and friends to reunite, a positive aspect about the festival.

White, however, said that he was against exotic dancing and gambling being included in the festival.

Public spokeswoman for the Department of Public Safety Doris Teague said that the Alabama State Troopers would be policing the event, but that fewer troopers would be on patrol this year compared to last year.

Throughout the South and in Alabama’s Black Belt, the Footwash Festival has drawn criticism, even from some of those who attend the festival. For instance, a Web site depicting some of the events says that local law enforcement normally is not allowed at the festival because it takes place on private property.

In an Associated Press story written earlier this month, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety said the state would have to cut back on providing security for festivals such as the Footwash Festival. Last year, the state provided $24,000 worth of security for the event.

It is unclear how much patrol will be on hand for this year’s festival, which occurs about four miles from Faunsdale.