Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Green Cove Residents Plan Fest; Effort Hopes to Boost Spirits in Neighborhood

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Green Cove Residents Plan Fest; Effort Hopes to Boost Spirits in Neighborhood

Article excerpt

Byline: Beth Reese Cravey, County Line staff writer

Green Cove Springs' Soul Food Festival came by its name honestly.

Founded a year ago, the event celebrated a street name change that boosted spirits in a neighborhood fighting to overcome a reputation as a haven of drug sales and drug-related crime. Middleburg Avenue became Martin Luther King Boulevard, a series of major drug busts had taken place and residents' souls, for a time, felt full.

Now, with crime again on the rise, they need another infusion.

Just in time, the second Soul Food Festival is Saturday at Vera Francis Hall Park.

Community response alone to the upcoming event has already heartened organizers. They had to close out vendor and exhibitor sign-ups as demand exceeded space.

"I had to cut them off," said event coordinator Felecia Hampshire, one of the festival's founders. "I don't know where we would have put them. I'm elated, truly elated!"

The festival begins with a 9 a.m. parade along Martin Luther King Boulevard, from Palmetto Avenue west to the park. Activities at the park run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The parade has about 30 entries, headed by three grand marshals -- School Superintendent David Owens and two popular, recently retired educators, coach Ron Riddle and teacher Mary Tuggles. The entries that follow include Green Cove Springs City Council members, area high school bands, church groups, motorcycle units and Masons.

At the park, a 10 a.m. program will recognize special people in the city's history. The son of Vera Francis Hall will offer a special memorial for his mother. Retired teachers, and alumni of Dunbar High, the now-closed black high school in Green Cove Springs, will be honored.

Children and adults will provide musical entertainment. Clay Fire and Rescue will do demonstrations, as will the Clay High School Stomp Team. …

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