After months of preparation, the Heritage & Harmony Festival has come together to bring some family fun to Civic Park.
The event aimed to give residents a fun summer opportunity with music, food, vendors and resources — right in their neighborhood, said Maurice Davis, Second Ward councilmen and festival founder.
“There’s a lot of behind the scenes work, when it comes together, it makes you feel so good,” he said. “You bring together all these different entities, and you see the whole community jump on board and support it – it’s like heaven.”
Sometimes, it can feel as though there’s nothing in Civic Park but blight, Davis said. But the festival was different, he said.
“You get to see the smiles of the kids running around, the older people that never get out, they’re sitting in lawn chairs, chilling out. You have the vendors and the resources – it feels good in this community,” Davis said.
One of those vendors, Santoya Lewis of Chloe’s Bowtique, is happy to be able to sell her product at pop-up shops in her community. Lewis began her business for her two-year-old daughter Chloe, after noticing that there was nowhere in Flint to purchase hair bows.
“I was spending a lot of money on bows, and then I was like – we don’t have anything like that in this area. So I thought that it would be great to offer bows, because the only place you can really find them is at the hair store or Walmart. I figured I would bring the bows to the city,” Lewis said.
Business was slow, but steady, at her shop during the festival, which ran Monday, July 2, through Wednesday, July 4.
Davis also made sure that community resources had a prominent location at the festival. Flint-resident Shearese Stapleton’s organization Mothers of Joy University, helps empower and educate families.
“When parents are going through different things, and don’t know why they feel the way they feel, why they may not make the right decisions, it’s because they’re not being proactive. Proactive parents have the tools to deal with their children,” Stapleton said. “But you have to deal with you first, then you can give those skills to your children.”
The organization offers classes on affordable self-care, purposeful parenting, and homemaking. It is uplifting to spend the Fourth of July holiday with other organizations committed to bettering the lives of families in Flint, said Stapleton.
“We all come together to show that we support each other – that’s what it’s all about. It’s about community, it’s about family, and it’s about creating that village,” Stapleton said.
In the past, Stapleton remembers Fourth of July being safe and full of activities. She is conscious of the change, but knows there are many people such as Davis, working to get back to that.
“Life happened to Flint, and we understand that. That’s why we’re trying to bring back a sense of normalcy to where we grew up, for the people that are still here. Families come back that have moved away, but when they come back it feels so different, that they don’t know how to embrace it,” Stapleton said.
In the future, she sees Flint coming back.
“There’s a lot of small businesses that are starting to grow in Flint — a lot of young entrepreneurs,” Stapleton said.
That includes her younger sister Shaeena Harrison, who runs a smoothie shop called Fruits of Elegance. She was on hand at the festival selling smoothies and slushies. Harrison started her business after friends told her how much they loved her smoothies.
“They’d say ‘you should go into business,’ and I said, you know what, you might be right,” Harrison said.
Fruits of Elegance, located on N. Ballenger Hwy., will expand to a full-service cafe at the end of this summer.
Davis is happy that the festival is able to give local vendors opportunities to get their name out.
“This allows vendors to make a dollar on their side of town, and that’s exciting,” Davis said.
He says the festival could have never happened without those who stepped up to volunteer their time. Next year, he hopes to draw an even larger crowd, like he typically does at other events he works on.
“This first event, I think is a home run. It’s peaceful, it’s laid back, the weather has cooperated, the vendors are laid back, we’re having fun — enjoying summertime,” Davis said.