Sunday, August 22, 2004

200,000 people get reacquainted at river

Black Reunion: 'One big happy family'

By Kevin Aldridge
Enquirer staff writer

DOWNTOWN - Some people came down Saturday to Bicentennial Commons at Sawyer Point and Yeatman's Cove Park to enjoy sunny skies and catch a breeze off the river.

Others came to sample the food and entertainment.

Many came to reunite with old friends and family.

Byron Stallworth and his daughter Maylt, 4, take part in the Black Family Reunion Parade.
(Enquirer photo/ERNEST COLEMAN)
For Deborah Miller of Avondale, this weekend's 2004 Midwest Regional Black Family Reunion was all about fellowship and keeping with a long-standing family tradition.

"We've been coming down here for 16 years to the parade and concert," said Miller, 49, who came with her daughter and mother. "We enjoy coming and seeing the family and friends we haven't seen in a while. We're just like one big happy family."

Thousands of people strolled along the riverfront Saturday visiting vendors and information booths that stretched from one end of Yeatman's Cove to Bicentennial Commons. Children shot basketball and played games, while many adults simply relaxed in lawn chairs and listened to bands playing on the pavilion's main stage.

The three-day celebration, which ends today, is expected to attract nearly 200,000 people and pump an estimated $16 million into the local economy. Organizers said they couldn't have asked for better weather for the festivities.

"The whole goal is to get the message out that the black family is alive and well and still together," said Ron Sheppard, site coordinator for the reunion. "This event truly has a family reunion feel to it. It's nice to see people out here enjoying themselves."

The Black Family Reunion was started by the National Council of Negro Women to challenge reports of the demise of the black family. It has since grown into one of the nation's largest family-oriented events.

Mark Watkins of Mt. Auburn said it is that sense of family that has drawn him to the event for the past 10 years. Watkins said he was glad to see the celebration has broadened beyond food and music to registering people to vote and educating them on health and other social issues.

"Family comes first before anything else," said Watkins, who sat underneath the shade of a tree near the Commons. "All of us are family and if we treat it as such things would be great all the time."

James and Barbara Griffin of Elsmere,were reclined in their lawn chairs at Yeatman's Cove sharing a conversation as music blared in the background.

"I come for the entertainment. She comes for the funnel cakes," James Griffin said.

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