This weekend, Sept. 7-8, will see the return of Johnson City’s annual Umoja Festival. The festival — the name of which translates to “unity” in Swahili — has been held in Johnson City for nearly 40 years.
The festival is held to help bring the community together by eliminating the barriers of race and culture, according to the Umoja Festival’s website. The festival is held in Downtown Johnson City and attracts as many as 30,000 attendees over the entirety of the event.
Festivities begin at 6 p.m. Friday, when the opening ceremony is slated to begin. Events on Friday will continue late into the night, with events planned until 10:30 p.m. Saturday, however, is expected to be an all-day affair. Saturday’s events begin with a parade at 10 a.m., and continue until 2:45 p.m. After a brief hiatus, the events continue at 6:15 p.m. and don’t stop until after 9 p.m.
One group from ETSU is scheduled to make an appearance as well. The ETSU Tale Tellers will be performing in the children’s area from 12:30-1:15 p.m.
Of course, performances from various groups and bands isn’t all the Umoja festival has to offer. Throughout the event, attendees will find plenty of food vendors serving authentic food from various countries, as well as countless tents housing vendors offering everything from artwork and crafts to jewelry and trinkets.
There will also be a children’s zone, whose theme this year is science and learning, that will offer music from a DJ on the youth stage from 6:30–9 p.m. on Friday and again from 2–9 p.m. Saturday. Additionally, there will be a carnival for the kids on Saturday from 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m.
Kids will also be treated to numerous activities sponsored by local organizations. Triple H Petting Zoo will have animals for the kids to pet, Quantum Leap will provide inflatables for children to play on and the Gray Fossil Site and Hands On! Museum will provide learning activities for children.
Entry to the festival is free for anyone who wants come, and there are activities for everyone as well as a plethora of vendors for attendees to browse. While there have been many iterations held all over Johnson City, Umoja has been celebrating ethnic diversity in the area since 1978, and this year will be no different.
Contributed by Jonathan Roberts