Merlene Davis: New attractions will highlight this year's 25th annual Roots and Heritage Festival

The symbol for this year's Roots and Heritage Festival contains a QR code that can be scanned.
The symbol for this year's Roots and Heritage Festival contains a QR code that can be scanned.

I must confess I haven't attended the Roots and Heritage Festival in downtown Lexington for about two years. Maybe three.

And when I did go, I didn't run into as many familiar faces as I had during the early years of the festival and therefore didn't have reason to stay a while.

The festival, to my surprise and the amazement of Kimberly Baird, festival chairwoman, is 25 years old this year. That means my youngest child wasn't born when it started and my middle son wasn't yet walking.

During all those years, the festival became a bit stagnant, resting on memories of the early days and not embracing the future.

Baird and marketing coordinator Danielle Meadows told me all that is changing.

"We've had a really big infusion of youth," Meadows said. "New blood. My goal is to continue to challenge the people. It seems like it got stuck."

Part of the changes will involve technology. The three-day festival, Sept. 6-8, has embraced an enhanced website, is using Facebook and Twitter, and has implemented a Quick Response or QR code which can be used with smartphones and other devices to quickly find information and activity schedules.

That code is imbedded in the festival's logo this year, which is a two-headed crocodile that shares one stomach. The African symbol depicts a proverb about the two heads arguing over food, not fully understanding that the food will benefit both. It illustrates that despite cultural differences, there is oneness in the human family, and unity in diversity.

Meadows said the logo symbolizes the transition the festival is undergoing, uniting the old with the new. The theme this year is "Honoring the Past, Celebrating the Present and Embracing the Future."

The parade and marketplace, featuring food and product vendors, are still an integral part of the festival. New this year is a much larger KidsFest on Sept. 7, which includes more inflatables, a coloring contest, creation of kente cloth street art with poet Frank X Walker, and interaction with themed characters such as Spider-Man, Elmo, Dora the Explorer and Disney's Princess Tiana.

Newton's Attic, a hands-on engineering education for young people, the National Society of Black Engineers and University of Kentucky engineering students will be on hand to create things like a tower made from unconventional materials such as marshmallows or Silly Putty, like they did last year.

PNC Bank will have its Mobile Learning Adventure traveling exhibit, which helps children figure out what they want to be when they grow up

Also new, or at least revisited, is the health and beauty tent in which health screenings will be available as well as healthful recipes, information about natural hairstyles, make-up and massage chairs.

The Gospel Celebration will be held in the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center from 1 to 5 p.m. Sept. 8. Prior to that will be the Barber and Beauty Contest, also at the Lyric.

Live music will be on two stages, and there will be poetry readings as well.

Because this is the 25th anniversary, the annual parade, which starts at 1 p.m. Sept. 7, will feature all current and former volunteers as Silver Anniversary Parade Grand Marshals to acknowledge their efforts to keep the festival ongoing.

"It is not too late to get in the parade," Baird said. "And it is not too late to volunteer."

I'll see you there.


The 25th Anniversary Roots and Heritage Festival is celebrating the past, present and future and features vendors, live music and activities for children.

When: Sept. 6-8. Marketplace opens at 4 p.m. Sept. 6, and 10 a.m. Sept. 7-8. Festival closes at 11 p.m. Sept. 6-7, and 5:30 p.m. Sept. 8.

Where: Near Third and Elm streets.

Information: Visit or on Facebook, or scan the QR code.