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New events at this year’s Ole Brook Festival

A variety of activities and entertainment await visitors Fridayas the 29th Annual Ole Brook Festival kicks off in downtownBrookhaven.

The festival runs Friday from 8 a.m. until 11 p.m. and willresume Saturday at 8 a.m. and continue until 11 p.m. With some newevents this year, organizers are looking forward to greatattendance.

“We’re anticipating a much larger crowd this year since the DuckDerby has been incorporated into it,” said John Chance, Ole BrookFestival chairman.

The Duck Derby, in which a person has a chance to win $1 millionor other prizes, is sponsored by the King’s Daughters FoundationLadies League and is a fund-raiser to renovate patient rooms. Thederby is scheduled for Saturday at 6 p.m.

Combined with the Fall Garden Extravaganza and Farmer’s Market,organizers have close to 200 booth spaces available forvendors.

Those are filling up quickly, said Kay Burton, program directorfor the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce. Activity haspicked up with a good weather forecast for this weekend.

“People want to see what the weather will be like,” Burtonsaid.

Over 150 booth spaces had been claimed as of Wednesday. Somevendors are taking two spaces.

Booths will be located in Railroad Park and along WhitworthAvenue and West Cherokee Street. Booths will take up about half totwo-thirds of the space between Whitworth and South Jackson Street,with a local talent entertainment stage taking up the rest.

“I feel like we’re going to fill up the booth space alongWhitworth,” said festival volunteer Kenny Goza.

In addition to food vendors, items for sale will includeclothing, paintings, bird houses, pottery, metal items andantiques.

“I’ve heard several say they will be selling Christmas items,”Burton said.

Music will play a big part of the festival entertainment. OnFriday, beginning at 7:30 p.m., Shaffier Smith’s “Friday NightLive” and other musicians will participate in the gospel event.

“It’s bigger than last year with the number of groups andquality of groups that will be singing,” Chance said.

Also on the Friday entertainment agenda will be Show Stoppers, agroup of state youth ranging in age from 6 to 18. They will performat 6:30 p.m. on the main stage at the north end of the RailroadAvenue parking lot.

Hot air balloons will make their return to the festival Saturdayfor a competition sanctioned by the U.S. Balloon Association.

The event is scheduled for Saturday at 7 a.m. and will featureabout eight balloons, including the new Brookhaven balloon.Balloons will fly over downtown during the competition.

Balloon race organizer Bert Carolla said the starting point forthe race has not been determined.

“We’re going to see which way the wind is blowing and go fromthere,” Carolla said.

On Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., will be preliminarycompetition for the Mid-South Fair Youth Talent Contest, one of thelargest youth talent competitions in the country.

Burton said the show will feature junior and senior divisionsbroken down into four music categories: gospel/Christian, country,pop and classical/Broadway. The overall winner, who will be invitedto the Mid-South show in September 2004, will be chosen from amongthe first place winners in the categories.

Culminating the festival Saturday night will be a free Christianconcert featuring Newsong and Clay Crosse. Also participating inthe concert, which begins at 7 p.m., will be Kelly Minter, ToddAgnew, Royal Ruckus and other special guests.

Burton said everything is falling into place for the festival,which is sponsored by the Bank of Brookhaven.

“We’ve had a great response,” Burton said. “People are excitedabout coming and it keeps growing every year.”