PLANT CITY – The 11th annual Black Heritage Festival kicks off Feb. 14 with a banquet featuring Army Reserve Lt. Col. Cynthia Cook as keynote speaker.
Cook, assigned to U.S. Central Command, will be part of an opening program that includes presentation of awards and WTSP Channel 10 news anchor Reginald Roundtree as emcee.
Cook was selected as keynote speaker because heritage festival organizers for the first time are presenting a military award, to Dave Braun, a Vietnam veteran who is on several veterans boards.
Cook was chosen to headline the opening ceremony because of her more than 20-year military career that has included overseas duty.
“We wanted someone from the military to be our speaker since this is the first time we’ve presented a military award,” said Sharon Moody, president and event coordinator of Plant City Black Heritage Celebration.
Other honors to presented during the evening include the late Charles H. Williams Sr., Heritage Award; Dr. Bernard Robinson, M.D., Lifetime Achievement Award; Danielle Odden, Community Service Award; Alexander and Verdelle Jones, Humanitarian Award; and Plant City Christian Center, Cornerstone Award.
The banquet at the John R. Trinkle Center on Hillsborough Community College’s Plant City campus starts off a multi-day celebration that includes a parade, entertainment and health fair.
“We expect this to be the best festival we’ve ever had. We’ve learned a lot over the years to make it better,” Moody said.
The festival, part of Black History Month, will have a theme, “A Legacy to Fulfil,” as it seeks to pay tribute to leaders in the community who have died, Moody said.
“They were the ones who led us and now we need to carry on what they started,” Moody said.
The festival’s second day, Feb. 15, includes a 1 p.m. parade with retired teacher Vivian “Vip” Williams serving as grand marshal.
Williams retired from teaching in 1992 after a 33-year career that included service as a physical education teacher at Dunbar Elementary and Tomlin Junior High schools and teacher for students with special learning disabilities at Plant City High.
Williams, who has lived in Plant City nearly 60 years, said she enjoys attending the heritage festival but was shocked when she was asked to be the grand marshal.
“Whoever heard of an 80-year-old parade grand marshal,” she said with a laugh. “They told me all I had to do was ride in a car and look pretty. I told them I could ride in a car all right but I didn’t know about the looking pretty part of it.”
This is the first time she’s ever served in such a place of honor in a parade, she added.
“I wondered ‘what did I do to deserve this?’ I know of so many people who have done a lot more than I have,” she said.
Other festival activities include entertainment, music and more Feb. 15 and 16 at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center, 1601 E. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
The final day of celebration, including entertainment and free food, will be Feb. 22 at Winn-Dixie, also known as Sweetbay Supermarket, 205 W. Alexander St.
For information, call Moody at (813) 453-7134 or go to celebration2.homestead.com.
Schedule of events
6 p.m.: Heritage banquet, John R. Trinkle Center, Hillsborough Community College’s Plant City campus, 1206 N. Park Road; tickets, $30, available through Friday at Greater Plant City Chamber of Commerce, 106 N. Evers St., and Pocket Change Beauty Supply, 1408 E. Baker St. No tickets will be available at the door.
1 p.m.: Heritage parade starts at Lake Street and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard; heads east on the boulevard to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center
2 to 8 p.m.: Entertainment, vendors and health fair at the recreation center
4 p.m.: American Idol finalist Deandre Scot Brackensick
2 to 8 p.m.: Gospel concert featuring high school choirs, Revealing Truth youth gospel choirs and recording gospel artist Yolanda Ford; vendors, all at the recreation center
11 a.m. to 2 p.m.: Free food, entertainment and police and fire displays at Winn-Dixie (Sweetbay Supermarket), 205 W. Alexander St.