Soul of 2nd Street Festival needs funding

Published 8:17 pm Tuesday, March 12, 2019

The Soul of 2nd Street Festival may become a ghost of the past if sufficient funding isn’t available this year.

The Heart of Danville had been a major sponsor of the event — $6,000 was budgeted for last year’s festival — but recently it was agreed that the Danville-Boyle County African American Historical Society will “take the lead” in finding sponsors and organizing the festival this year, said HOD board member Michael Hughes, during the regular HOD meeting last month.

The Soul of 2nd Street Festival highlights the African American business district that once thrived in downtown Danville. For the past four years, the one-day event featured historical photos, a history conference and live music.

Email newsletter signup

“HOD still values the festival and feels it is an important event to help celebrate our community’s diverse past, but the event better aligns with the work of the historical society than it does HOD,” stated interim director Dustin Duvall. “The Heart is still involved and will help the historical society plan the event and will still promote it.”

“Funding is the biggest thing,” said Hughes, who also is now in the initial stages of planning the festival for the historical society. “I can bring in people and acts, but I’ve got to have the funding.”

The tentative date for this year’s festival is Saturday, Aug. 10.

Hughes said he will soon be approaching Danville City Council and Boyle County Fiscal Court to request money so that the festival can continue to be held. He will also be contacting other possible sponsors for the event.

“We are working hard trying to put together different things and different organizations … with HOD being a partner, but we’re trying to include other partners like Centre College,” Hughes said.

Hughes said he wants the festival to “have a family reunion type atmosphere,” for all races of people. “I want to involve everybody. I want to bridge the gap. I want people to come and sit down and get to know each other,” Hughes said.

During a previous festival, Hughes said a gentleman who grew up in Danville was studying the old black and white photos on display and asked, “How come I don’t know these people?”

It was because, “Blacks and whites didn’t communicate very much,” back then, Hughes said.

“That’s the bridge we’re trying to cross — black history and to bridge that gap,” Hughes said.

“I want the white folks to come sit and enjoy the festivities.”

Even though funding is in question, Hughes is enthusiastic about what can be possible during the festival.

He wants to bring in more live bands, including some with strong “name recognition,” including gospel and Motown performers. For example, Hughes mentioned the possibility of bringing in the ’60s group, “The Tams,” who were known for the song “Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy.”

Maybe the festival can sign “The Jimmy Church Band” too, which is performing the previous weekend during Springfield’s popular African American Heritage Festival, Hughes said.

If the festival continues to exist this year, Hughes said there will be a Coney Island cook-off, held in honor of Emma Turner, who had a restaurant on Second Street many years ago and served great chili dogs.

He also wants to include more things for the community’s youth to enjoy, and he’s open to all ideas, he said.

The volunteers working with Hughes on the festival want to make it a fun, historical and musical event, Hughes said. If funding efforts are successful, all Hughes said he has to do is “Turn the mic on and let’s go!”