• 72°

Brook organizers hope festival speeds healing

Healing and inspiration are the intent of the 31st annual OleBrook Festival as the area continues to recover from HurricaneKatrina.

“Healing and inspiration – I think that’s going to be the wholefeel of the concert and festival,” said Kay Burton, an organizer orthe event that will take place this weekend in downtownBrookhaven.

Clifford Brumfield, executive vice president of theBrookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce, agreed.

“Let’s have a time of rest and rejoice to forget the last fewweeks for a few moments,” he said.

Not holding the 31st annual event was never an option, officialssaid.

“We have had a hurricane. Now our community and our visitorsneed a positive diversion,” he said. “Naturally, we think this isneeded more this year than past years.”

Many previous attendees and vendors have urged that the eventnot be canceled.

The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina has made schedulingchallenging, Burton said. Between uncertainty about whether thefestival would go on and dealing with damage to their homes orbusinesses, many vendors initially canceled. Others have sincerescheduled, while new vendors have slipped into the vacantslots.

One new vendor this year will be selling live birds andhamsters.

“Now, we’re seeing a fewer number (of vendors) than last year,but in the last few days we’ve seen a lot of inquiries … Thequality is there though,” Brumfield said.

The food court has already filled with vendors.

“If you come for the good food, you’re already set,” Burtonsaid.

The “Kid Zone” has been greatly enlarged, Brumfield said. Ponyand miniature horse and buggy rides, a rock climbing wall, a bungeejump and many other attractions have been added.

Children will also be thrilled to meet many of their favoritecharacters from comic books and television shows, such as Batman,who will be wandering around the festival.

Many of the old favorites are still scheduled to attend,Brumfield said.

New Song, Saturday’s headline act, contacted the organizers andsaid they intend to make this year’s program special by focusing onhope and faith, said Kenny Goza, an event organizer.

They will be supported by Two Bare Feet and Greg Long.

“A lot of times, the talent you see here are the up-and-comingperformers. Within a few years, many are major stars,” Brumfieldsaid.

The traditional open mike karaoke contest and performances bylocal talent Friday night is still scheduled. Several local actshave canceled, however, Goza said.

Actor’s Playhouse, a song and dance group of 20 to 25 performerswill take the stage at 6 p.m. Friday to anchor that night’sentertainment.

Saturday’s festivities will open at 8 a.m. with a talent show.The winner will advance to the Mid-South Fair in Memphis, Brumfieldsaid.

“If you place here, you have a real opportunity to move forwardand get noticed,” he said.

The event organizers said visitors here displaced by thehurricane have not been overlooked.

“We’re working to coordinate with the shelters to help ourvisitors attend the festival and the free concert,” Brumfieldsaid.

The festival also serves as a fund-raiser for the chamber.

Prints and T-shirts with this year’s festival logo are availablenow at the chamber’s downtown office, where the items will also beavailable following the festival. During the festival, the itemswill be available at the chamber booth.