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23rd annual Adams County Heritage Festival

(8/31) A stunning afternoon of music and dance is scheduled for September 21, when the 23rd annual Adams County Heritage Festival takes place at the Gettysburg Recreation Park on Long Lane in Gettyburg, PA from noon to 5 PM. In addition, a pavilion of multi-ethnic foods, heritage craft demonstrations and vendors, children’s activities, animals and a spectrum of non-profit booths will round out the festival.

A perfect family event, it’s free – no admission, no parking fees, and free entertainment. The Festival will begin, as always, with prayer, local government proclamations, and bagpiper Rodney Yeaple walking the grounds to serenade vendor booths. He’ll be followed at 12:15 by a Scottish band, "Fyne Sound," featuring harpist Sharon Knowles, a highland dancer, and other musicians.

Next, we’ll hear haunting strains of Arab music played by the "Niyah Trio" on traditional instruments: ney, oud and drums. Fascinated by the Arab musical tradition, Jon Seligman, Tomchess and Brian Prunka bring backgrounds in jazz and composition to their mastery of a different scale and intricate rhythms. Following at 2:10 PM will be the "Onoe Ryu Dance Ensemble" of Washington, DC performing traditional Japanese dance in colorful silk kimonos. The Onoe style of Japanese classical dance, perfected by master choreographer Shihan Onoe Kikuyuki, involves sophisticated turns, elegant posture and total body control.

A special children’s performance is scheduled for 3:10, performed by local children under the direction of actress Ann Griffith. The musical play "Abiyoyo," created especially for the Festival, tells the story of a fearsome giant who is transformed when children sing a song about him. Last, but hardly least, we’ll enjoy an eight - member Mexican dance band: "Los Forasteros Y Padrillos," led by Jesus Contreras. Be sure to stay and dance to toe-tapping rhythms before heading home with a box of ethnic food for supper.

Back in 1991, some of us envisioned an event to bring varied people together to enjoy each other’s music and cultural traditions. Things went badly the first year with a hurricane and lots of rain. Because we were clustered under one pavilion, Native Americans left because the Mexican band was too loud! But we tried again, staging Festival after Festival with no budget, relying instead on free entertainment and in-kind donations. Finally, the Festival became so significant that we were able to attract grants and go farther afield to find performers.

One person who isn’t paid is artist Annie Byrnes, who spends hours preparing children’s projects for the Festival, each year on a different theme. This year, hands-on children’s activities will include projects recognizing the role of water in our lives and designing change-making postcards which children can send to their schools. All Festival events promote community unity. Sponsored by the Interfaith Center for Peace and Justice, the Festival is a time of sharing and celebrating world cultures through music, food and art.

The 2014 Adams County Heritage Festival is funded by grants from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the National Trust for Historic Gettysburg, the Adams County Community Foundation, the Robert C. Hoffman Charitable Endowment Trust, the Rotary Club of Gettysburg, the Home Association of McSherrystown, the Adams County Commissioners and the Borough of Gettysburg.

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