Salters to be back at forefront of African American Festival

DOVER — The “Positively Dover” African American Festival took place on its usual date on the calendar, the fourth Saturday of June last year.

While all of the traditional festival events went on as scheduled, there was definitely something, or rather, somebody, missing.

Concern spread throughout the festival grounds last year that former Dover City Councilman Reuben Salters, the driving force behind starting the event 27 years ago, was unable to attend the event due to health problems.

It was the first time Mr. Salters had missed an African American Festival, which he founded.

Mr. Salters said not to worry, that he will be up and ready when the Inner City Cultural League presents the 27th annual African American Festival at Legislative Mall on Saturday from 10 a.m. until around 7 p.m.

Reuben Salters, right, leads the way during the African American Festival processional around Legislative Mall with Sankofa drummer Brandon Carrion of Dover in 2015. Mr. Salters, the festival’s founder, missed the event for the first time last year with a case of vertigo. (Delaware State News file photo)

“It is pretty special,” said Mr. Salters, about being able to return to the festival this year. “I couldn’t make it last year. I had vertigo.

“I’ll tell you what, the older I get the harder it gets, but we enjoy it and we know we’re providing a good product.”

Mr. Salters is always happy to talk with anyone about the festival, which started out as a small gathering near Memorial Park along Mirror Lake on Park Drive.

Over the past three decades, it has turned into of one of Dover’s marque events.

City Councilman David Anderson noted the absence of Mr. Salters during last year’s festival and said it left a great void.

“(Mr. Salters is) a great man and he’s a visionary, not just for the festival, but for everything, including the Inner City Cultural League,” Mr. Anderson said. “He helps contribute greatly to the best of Dover and the best of our community.”

Festival ‘for everybody’

Katrina Stroud, who is Mr. Salters’ daughter and is also a board member of the Inner City Cultural League, said the festival is not strictly reserved for African Americans.

“It’s a family-friendly event and it’s called the ‘Positively Dover’ African American Festival because it’s a cultural expression that’s kind of set in an African market-type setting, but all cultures are welcome to attend,” she said.

“It’s a celebration of culture and all cultures are welcome.”

Ms. Stroud said the event is a free program and serves as an excellent meeting place for all ethnic groups to exchange cultural and artistic experiences to help create a more diversified, tolerant and respectful attitude toward one another.

It is a day-long celebration of African culture that includes food, crafts, dancing, drumming and music.

Among the must-see events at the “Positively Dover” African American Festival is the Grand Procession that will take place at 11 a.m.

A large group, including Mr. Salters and state and local dignitaries, will march in the procession, walking the inside perimeter of Legislative Mall with drummers, greeting everyone.

“My favorite part of it all is when we do the opening ceremonies,” Mr. Salters said. “The most informative part of the entire festival is the opening ceremony.”

Dennis Minus has led the Grand Procession for the past 20 years, marching around the grounds with an umbrella and whistle, which he tweets while pointing the umbrella to welcome people along the route to the festival.

Eddie Holman to headline

Following the opening of the festival, which also includes a traditional African libation ceremony, performances on Legislative Mall will rule the day.

Singer Eddie Holman will headline this year’s African American Festival, set for Saturday on Legislative Mall in Dover. (Submitted photo)

Scheduled performers include: the Sankofa African Dance Co. and Drummers, the Calvary Baptist Church Choir, Georgetown’s Christy Taylor, the Trinidad and Tobago Steel Band, Line Dancers of Kent County, Fazes Band with Greg Taylor and “Swamp Dog” Blues featuring Anthony Clark.

Eddie Holman will be the headline performer at the festival. Mr. Holman, best known for his 1970 hit song “Hey There Lonely Girl,” will take the stage at 6:15 p.m. He was a 2016 inductee into the Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame.

Mr. Holman said his visit to the First State on Saturday will not be his first.

“I performed in Delaware many years ago, but can’t recall the venues,” he said. “I’m looking forward to and I’m excited to be coming to perform at the Dover African American Festival.”

Ms. Stroud said she believes this year’s festival has a little bit of something for every age group.

“We have some of our returning acts,” Ms. Stroud said. “The Sankofa Drummers and Dancers are one group in which our children are involved in a drum and dance troop. They’ll even pull some people from the crowd and let them do some dancing as well.

“The Line Dancers of Kent County will be back because everyone loved them last year and ‘Swamp Dog’ got the crowd moving last year, too, so he’ll be back. We’re also looking forward to hearing our headliner Eddie Holman’s performance.”

The festival will also feature around 100 vendors, many of whom will be selling their wares – many of which are African-oriented products, clothes and art – while others will provide information regarding their businesses, including talking about health issues, offering massages and many other things.

Plus, there will be around 30 food vendors on hand, featuring a diverse food menu, as well as a moon bounce, face painting and crafts for the children.
The biggest thing returning to this year’s festival that pleases Ms. Stroud the most is her father, Mr. Salters.

“Last year when he was not there I was a little concerned,” she said. “He will be there this year walking around and leading the procession, just like old times.”

Activities on tap

Saturday’s 2017 “Positively Dover” African American Festival schedule takes place at Legislative Mall:

• 10 a.m. — Drum workshop

• 11 a.m. — Festival Procession (Sankofa and guests)

• 11:30 a.m. — Sankofa African Dancers

• Noon — Gospel Music Time with Calvary Baptist Church Choir

• 1 p.m. — Christy Taylor/Georgetown

• 2 p.m. — Trinidad and Tobago Steel Band

• 3 p.m. — Line Dancers of Kent County

• 3:30 p.m. — Fazes Band featuring Greg Taylor

• 4:30 p.m. — Sankofa African Dancers

• 5:30 p.m. — “Swamp Dog” Blues featuring Anthony Clark

• 6:15 p.m. — Eddie Holman (“Hey There Lonely Girl)

• Around 7 p.m. — Festival ends

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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