By Gina Malone
The East End/Valley Street Community Heritage Festival takes place Saturday, August 27, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. in Asheville’s Martin Luther King Jr. Park. The Festival Parade starts at 10 a.m., progressing from the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Alexander Drive to the park. The festival got its start in 2017 in the East End/Valley Street community, one of Asheville’s most historic neighborhoods. Like many events, it was canceled for the last two years because of COVID, but organizers are eager to welcome everyone to festivities this year.
“The festival is important to the community in many ways,” says Renée White, president of the East End/Valley Street Neighborhood Association for the past 10 years. “The event brings people together for fun, laughter, memories and good times. Many people who have moved away actually come back to Asheville just to participate. Natives get a chance to experience a full day of music, laughter, history, storytelling, good food, dancing and seeing people in person again.” In addition, she says, the festival is a way of keeping alive in conversations and memories what the neighborhood represented before urban renewal erased much of its legacy and history.
“We Rise As One!” is the theme for this year’s festival. “We found this theme to be appropriate because we like to spread togetherness in our neighborhood,” White says. “We are no longer an all-Black neighborhood due to gentrification, so it is important that we show unity and love regardless of race, creed or color. We have to support each other, help each other and lend a helping hand when needed in order to rise; we cannot fight separately, but as one.”
The community recently lost Mack Moore, a life-long resident who exemplified these ideals, and this year’s festival is dedicated to his memory. A veteran of the US Marine Corps and owner of M&M Heating and Cooling, Moore often hosted festivals and community gatherings at his own expense.
“Mack promoted unity, peace and love in the City and worked until his death to bring people together in fun and love,” says White. “We miss his positive energy, big smile and supportive encouragement that he spread amongst us. He will forever be a sweet angel watching over us in the East End.”
Much planning and many hours of volunteerism go into the family-friendly East End/Valley Street Community Heritage Festival, which features live music and food vendors throughout the day and a children’s area open from 11 a.m.–8 p.m.
“I look forward to seeing people in person,” White says, “to the laughter, the good times, the memories that are created, the feeling I get knowing we are preserving legacy and giving our future generations something to remember and talk about for years to come.”
To learn more, visit EastEndValleyStreet.org. Martin Luther King Jr. Park is located at 50 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, Asheville.