An annual celebration of a historic Black Roanoke neighborhood is back, with a minor rebrand.
The event once known as the Henry Street Heritage Festival hits Elmwood Park on Saturday as the Henry Street Music Festival. Still, music was always at the center of the annual gathering, interrupted last year by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We are calling it the Henry Street Music Festival and not the Henry Street Heritage Festival, as we are emphasizing mainly music this year and have made a couple of changes based on COVID safety measures," organizer Kianna Price said in an email exchange.
Organizers are encouraging everyone to wear a mask, and requiring the unvaccinated to mask up, she wrote.
Bands playing R&B, throwback funk and jazz fusion will play the amphitheater stage, and a theatrical tribute to historic Henry Street is on the bill, along with food and other vendors around the park, plus voter registration and pandemic vaccination. Musically, it's a lineup of local and regional bands, instead of the more nationally famous acts of past years. Price said that was a way to support performers who lost work during the pandemic.
Touch of Class Band, a Roanoke group that plays the Star City frequently, brings classic R&B with touches of hip-hop. Applebutter Soul, from Lynchburg, is funky with flashes of jazz. Signature Sounds, from Greensboro, North Carolina, focuses on soul music. Spectrum Band, from High Point, North Carolina, has a long history at the Henry Street Festival — visit the act's Facebook page to see videos from Elmwood, including a 2015 clip shot before the venue's renovation.
As in years past, proceeds benefit the Harrison Museum of African American Culture, at Center in the Square.
"Not being able to have it last year was challenging for the museum, but they remain open despite the obstacles," Price wrote. "As more and more people want to support and celebrate Black excellence, what better way to do so than by visiting the museum and coming to the festival.
"After last year’s racial tension in America (of course it continues) and many wanting to learn more about African American culture and history, we invite the entire community to come out enjoy the excellent R&B and jazz music while supporting a worthy cause."