By CRA News Service
DELRAY BEACH – The aroma of BBQ wafted through the air recently as several hundred braved inclement weather to celebrate the Annual Roots Cultural Festival downtown.
It was the first time the 35-year-old festival that it was held on West Atlantic Avenue. The free event was held on the Community Redevelopment Agency’s vacant property in the 900 block of West Atlantic Avenue.
Crafts vendors, two entertainment stages, performers, special attractions and festival food provided visitors of all ages with something to enjoy.
“We had an amazing 35th family reunion,” said Alberta McCarthy, who chaired this year’s festival. “People kept coming and coming in between the rain showers, and we’d dry everything off and then they would come back. It was well worth all the effort by all the agencies that helped.”
Despite the rain, which interrupted the proceedings intermittently, festival-goers streamed in, catching the sounds of spirit-filled gospel music while visiting vendor booths.
One of the highlights was the inaugural BBQ contest, which featured entries from three local chefs. The city’s famed Bill Cesar of Cesar’s BBQ won unanimously.
“The lord keeps blessing us, so we got favor and it’s our season,” said Bill Cesar, who holds the record at several contests countywide. “We enter every contest that we can and we put in hard work and dedication and prayer.”
His wife, Pauline, credits their success to their faith and determination.
“You got to have faith in everything you do,” she said. “With Cesar, he loves it, he enjoys it and that’s even better. When you put passion in something that you love, you can’t expect [anything] but excellence every time.”
The winner received a cash prize, a promotional package – courtesy of CRA Media Group -which include public relations services and a free advertisement in the newspaper and entry in the “We Kan Burn” BBQ contest in December.
“Considering we put this together in three weeks, we had a pretty good turnout,” said Kevin Dorival, who coordinated the contest for KOP, formerly the Knights of Pythagoras Mentoring Network.
Members of the Jefferson Manor Homes Association founded the Roots Cultural Festival in 1978 as a community event.
For 24 years, Roots held a summer-long series of workshops, concerts and public events celebrating African and Caribbean cultures that culminated in August at Pompey Park.
In December 2000, Roots began holding the first of a five-part classical series in the Crest Theater at Old School Square Cultural Arts Center.
The series featured instructions for area children in vocal performance, piano, drama, string instruments and classes in classical dance.
The program involved teaching minority children in 10-hour workshops, to read and perform classical music and art.
Following each workshop, the youth displayed their talents in a performance.
The Roots Cultural Festival also had a special addition to its 2000 kick off bash when the School District of Palm Beach County unveiled a new curriculum program focusing on teaching students African American culture and history.
The program, the first of its kind in Florida, was in response to a state legislative mandate passed in 1994 requiring students from grades kindergarten through 12 to receive instructions in the history and contributions of African and African-Americans in all subject areas.
Organizers in 2001 changed the event to a yearlong celebration with events sporadic throughout the year.
The following year, organizers moved the event to Old School Square, a move which received objections from some. Attendance waned and the group accumulated $50,000 in debt. The festival eventually asked the city for about $10,000 to satisfy its debts.
Organizers have since scaled back the festival, focusing on basketball tournaments, the classical concert and the festival, which they returned to this year in the new location.