Harambee kickoff unfettered by cloudy skies

Aug. 03, 2014 @ 08:59 AM

Cloudy skies couldn’t dampen the spirit of Harambee Saturday, as the 42nd annual festival kicked off with Family Fun Day at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center in Lenoir.

The rain held off as kids and parents went back and forth between face painting, inflatables, a mechanical bull, a NASCAR exhibition complete with tire changing and race simulator, face painting, and barbecue.

A train ride toured community members through the neighborhood, and vendors were spread out on the ball field, selling everything from miniature teepees to handbags.

Things were off to a great start by 1 p.m., said Lester Whittington, director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center and the Harambee Festival, who said he was already getting good feedback from attendees at the oldest continually-running festival in Caldwell County.

Rickey Brooks, a member of the First Church of God in Lenoir, manned a grill piled with corn and barbecue, saying that The First Church of God has been a mainstay at Harambee for at least the last 20 years.

“The culture,” Brooks said, when asked what keeps him coming to the festival. “It’s steeped in our heritage.”

This year, the NASCAR Drive for Diversity organization, which encourages minorities to become involved in the sport, brought something extra to the table, a racing simulator that was an early favorite of Harambee-goers Nauleage Corpening, 13, and Noah Israel, 11. Corpening and Israel, in their third and second Harambees, respectively, said they enjoyed everything Family Fun Day had to offer, from the waterslides to the race simulator.

Phil Horton, director of athletic performance with Drive for Diversity, said that people were enjoying the simulator and NASCAR show car, which festival attendees could jack up and change tires on, to see what working with a pit crew is like.

On the other side of the MLK Center, Michael Sloan, president of the Minesterial Alliance, spent the afternoon handing out free book bags to kids at the festival, with paper, pencils, pens, crayons – stuff to get ready for the imminent school year.

When Harambee comes around, the Minesterial Alliance tries to get involved to support the community, Sloan said.

After all, that’s what the Harambee Festival is all about.