Among the acts making a joyful noise at this weekend's African American Heritage Festival is a choir consisting of workers from a corporation known for its department stores.
The Sears Holdings Associate Gospel Choir, a collection of employees from the national chain's corporate headquarters in suburban Chicago, is one of the many attractions at this year's ninth annual celebration of culture, arts and entertainment.
There's much to see and do at the three-day festival, which draws about a half-million people annually and has become a popular venue for outdoor entertainment.
Here are some of the best events that this year's festival offers.
Sears Gospel Choir
Formed in 1996, the choir, which has about 50 members, has performed throughout the nation at various Sears stores as well as in two nationally televised Sears commercials. They've raised money through concerts to purchase winter coats for low-income children and recorded a debut CD, "Songs of Celebration," in 2001. Main Stage, 6 p.m. Sunday.
It takes a few villages to raise community awareness, and the African American Heritage Festival features several villages that focus on such topics as health, personal empowerment and education. "The festival's core focus is providing tools and resources for the underserved of Baltimore and the region," said LaRian Finney, festival chair. "We have assembled over 150 exhibitors, experts and health professionals to conduct screenings, workshops, and demonstrations for our attendees." Held all weekend long.
Mention John "Kinderman" Taylor, and you think family entertainment. The local entertainer known to many as the "Pied Piper of Dance" will perform for the young and old on Father's Day, when he is expected to hold a line dance for fathers in the crowd. Dream Stage, 3 p.m. Sunday.
One of the festival's signature acts, the Grammy Award-winning R&B crooner whose latest album, "Sex Therapy: The Session," has spent about 25 weeks on the Billboard R&B/Hip Hop Albums chart, peaking at No. 2. Main Stage, 8:30 p.m. Friday.
Uplifting Minds Contest
The national talent competition that features songwriting, dancing and singing, was sponsored locally in part by the Baltimore Times and Sojourner-Douglass College. B Stage, 1:30 p.m. Sunday.
A late addition to the Saturday entertainment lineup is Fantasia, the former "American Idol" contestant who has become one of the most versatile performers in the entertainment industry, with Grammy Award-nominated recordings, her own VH1 realtity television show and the role of Celie in the Broadway version of "The Color Purple." The event will be hosted by legendary R&B/Soul artist Patti LaBelle. Main Stage, 8:45 p.m. Saturday.
The renowned gospel recording artist whose hits include the crossover tune "We Fall Down," McClurkin will headline an mostly inspirational music-based lineup on Sunday. According to McClurkin's website, his latest album, "We All Are One (Live In Detroit)," features a song, "Purple," composed by local conductor Darin Atwater and performed by his Baltimore-based Soulful Symphony orchestra. Main Stage, 7:30 p.m. Sunday.
Baltimore's own national recording artist recently collaborated with Lil Jon and R. Kelly for a pulsating tune, "Ms. Chocolate," on crunk music artist Lil Jon's latest album. Main Stage, 7 p.m. Sunday.
Want to see all the festival has to offer and get a low-impact workout as well? The 1.5-mile walk offers an impromptu tour within the festival. The walk is free and participants can register on the day of the event. M&T Bank Stadium, 9 a.m. Saturday.
Brown is the known as the creator and "Godfather" of Go-Go, a musical style originating in D.C. that is known for is rousing percussion rhythms, funk-based melodies and call-and-response rhymes. It is one of the last American music genres virtually untouched by mainstream influence, and Brown has performed it before audiences for more than 30 years. B Stage, 7 p.m. Sunday.
If you go
African American Heritage Festival starts Friday and continues through Sunday around M&T Bank Stadium. The festival is free before 4 p.m., and tickets are $5 after 4 p.m., and $30 for general reserved seating. Children 12 and under are admitted free. For more information, call 410-235.4427, ext. 211, or go to aahf.net/2010
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