Bragg, ghosts, cornbread part of Livingston Festival

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 19, 2005

LIVINGSTON-If you’re a Black Belt resident who’s been listening to the radio’s Sucarnochee Revue and wishing there were more activities to celebrate the Black Belt’s folk roots, you’re in luck.

This week, the University of West Alabama, in conjunction with Sumter County and the City of Livingston, will present the second annual Sucarnochee Folklore and Heritage Festival. The Festival is a five-day celebration of Black Belt folklore running from Tuesday, April 19 to Saturday, April 23.

“I think it’s a wonderful event, and UWA is thrilled to help stage it,” said Festival organizer Dr. Tina Jones. “It’s a nice event to bring alumni back to campus, and it’s a nice event to bring people to west Alabama.”

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Jones said that no matter what your interests, there would almost certainly be something worth your time during the Festival.

“The main day is Saturday,” she said. “But if you’re the type of person who likes literature, you’ll want to come Friday. If you’re the type of person who’s more hands-on, you’ll want to come Saturday to get your hands on a pottery wheel or try your hand at metal-working. If you’re interested in music, you’ll want to come either Saturday afternoon or Thursday night, when you can hear the Gary Waldrep Band.

“There really is something for everyone,” she added. “Lots of good food, good fun, and good music.”

Some of the Festival’s highlights are as follows:

* One of Alabama’s most celebrated and popular writers, Pulitzer Prize winner Rick Bragg will be appearing at UWA’s Bell Conference Center Friday night at 7 p.m. Bragg won a 1996 Pulitzer for his feature writing and is the author of the well-received Alabama memoir “All Over But the Shoutin’.” “Who wouldn’t want to hear Rick Bragg?” Jones asked.

* Fans of campfires and spooky stories will want to be sure to be in attendance for a pair of events Saturday. First, renowned storyteller Kathryn Tucker Windham, author of “13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey,” will be speaking Saturday afternoon. That evening, Dr. Alan Brown, author of “The Face in the Window and Other Alabama Ghostlore,” will cap off the Festival with a Walking Ghost Tour. The tour will visit several Livingston homes and buildings with reported ghost activity, including brief talks with the owners of the homes about their ghost-related experiences.

* Saturday marks the second annual Cornbread Cook-Off, held in Livingston’s downtown square. Recipes will compete in three separate categories: Best Traditional Cornbread, Best Specialty Cornbread, and Best Main Dish Recipe using Cornbread, and will be judged on taste, creativity, and appetizing appearance. “So if you think your cornbread is the best,” reads a press release devoted to the Cook-off, “make some and bring it to the Sucarnochee Cornbread Cook-Off.

If you just want to see who has the best recipe, be sure to attend.”

* The Gary Waldrep Band will be performing at Bibb Graves Auditorium Thursday at 7:30 p.m. Hailing from tiny Kilpatrick, AL, the Gary Waldrep Band has become well-known for their original work in the traditional genres of bluegrass and gospel.

For a complete listing of events, consult the schedule printed in today’s edition of the Times.

Jones said that the Sucarnochee Folklore Festival began its existence as the discontinued Livingston festival Muse’s Bazaar. Several years after the last Bazaar, Jones says it’s important for the Festival to continue to celebrate the area’s roots and educate residents about the depth of the Black Belt’s artistic history.

“UWA and others are trying to raise awareness of the folklore, the folk stories, and the folk songs that make up our heritage,” she said.