Chuck Kuepfer, Staff Reporter
As the Underground Railroad Festival nears, organizers continue to make announcements about the latest additions to this year’s event that features world-class folk, blues, jazz, blues and gospel music.
For 2012, organizers have made it easier for festival goers who want to explore the area’s black history which was the reason the summer festival, the only one of its kind in North America, was founded.
“We are also pleased to announce a free self-guided tour map of historic African-Canadian sites in the area prepared by Mapleton Historic Society and Parks Recreation,” said Diana Braithwaite, chair of the Underground Railroad Music Society.
The maps will be available to festivalgoers at Drayton Centennial Park on the day of the event, Saturday, Aug. 18
Braithwaite, who will perform in the festival along with husband Chris Whiteley, is excited about the musicians participating in 2012.
“We are really excited with this year’s award-winning line up helping us celebrate black history in Wellington County through music, song and historical presentation,” she said.
New performers this year include Blackburn, “the brothers of blues, soul and R&B” who close out the festival.
“The Blackburn brothers carry the torch passed on by their father Bobby Dean Blackburn, and create compositions saturated in traditional blues, soul and R&B,” said Braithwaite.
Another new act this year is Melissa Adamson and The Weary Travellers. Adamson is a past winner of the Harry Jerome Award for Arts and has appeared as soloist with the Vancouver Symphony and the CBC Orchestra Vancouver.
“We are pleased to have her singing a celebration of spirituals at this year’s event,” said Braithwaite. “Also, in celebration of old time blue grass country music are the award-winning artists, Jenny Whiteley, Amy Millan, Dan Whiteley and Joey Wright.”
Guest speaker Del Ashkewe of the Potawattomi Bear Clan was recently added to the lineup. He will speak about the history and sacred spirituality of rivers in Wellington and Waterloo counties.
Ashkewe joins guest speaker Timothy Epp, who will talk about the African-Canadian and Mennonite connection during the Underground Railroad and in the early pioneer settlement in the county.
Terry Mercury, a seventh-generation African-Canadian who has worked as a producer and reporter for CBC Radio, has been announced as emcee for the event.
Full details on this year’s event, including a schedule with performer times, is available at www.braithwaiteandwhiteley.com/music-festival.html.
The Underground Railroad Festival begins at 12 p.m. Tickets are $40 and available through Ticketscene.ca.