MANCHESTER, NH – Summer celebrations featuring music and food are a natural part of city life and reflect a community that has always been historically rich with cultural and ethnic diversity.
Five years ago the We Are One Music/Culture Festival rose up out of a natural integration of two long-standing cultural celebrations – the Latino Festival launched in 2000 by Latino Unidos and the African/Caribbean fest, founded the following year by Ujima Collective. Their tagline, “Better Together,” not only reflects the successful synthesis of two distinctly different cultural fests, but underscores the true definition of community.
It’s all about fellowship, communication and common purpose.
Shaunte Whitted, who is coordinating this year’s event, says despite its evolution, the spirit of the celebration has not wavered – it has always at the heart of it been a way to celebrate the cultural heritage and shared interests of those who call Manchester home – whether they were born here, arrived decades ago, or are part of the more recent wave of “new Americans” with Afro/Caribbean and Latino roots.
The annual event, set for Aug. 18 from 11 a.m to 7 p.m. at Veteran’s Park, is about the common ground we share – as a city and as human beings, all seeking the best life for ourselves and future generations, says Whitted.
“We keep it going for the generations to come. We all want to see it thrive every year for our families,” says Whitted. “My children love coming, from my 20-year-old to my 4-year-old, and it’s something we want to see continue.”
Mounting a successful event requires a full year of planning by a dedicated core of volunteers – sponsors this year include St. Mary’s Bank, WZID, Coca-Cola and Walmart, but there is always room for more community support.
“Sponsorship can take many different forms,” says Whitted. “Coca-Cola, for example, donates products that are provided free to attendees. Walmart has in the past donated not only money but volunteers who help out during the event – we welcome anyone interested in sponsoring or volunteering.”
Scenes from previous festivals
In addition to food and a full slate entertainers bringing music and dance to the Veteran’s Park stage, there will be vendors selling everything from T-shirts and authentic attire from other countries, to novelty items, jewelry and even shoes from South Africa.
For Whitted, it’s exciting to see everyone gathered together for a day that’s all about acknowledging that our differences make us “better together.” Based on previous festivals, organizers are expecting at least 1,500 attendees.
“Everyone’s there to have a good time in a setting where they can enjoy the diverse music and the fact that they’re able to celebrate their own cultures. I personally like to celebrate all diversity – I can take a little bit from each and make it my own,” Whitted says. “The fact that everyone brings something different to the table is what makes it unique.”
It’s not too late sign on to be a vendor. Although early-bird registration ended July 1, you can still reserve a 10×10 general vendor space for $150.
Still needed: Volunteers to help manage the entertainment by working with the various groups to keep everything on schedule, to assist vendors, and – as always, to help clean up.
“It’s not the greatest part of the day, but it’s necessary,” Whitted says.