The St. Johns Cultural Council, the organization that promotes arts, culture and heritage in St. Augustine, has announced the 10th Annual S.E.A. Gullah Geechee Heritage Festival will be held on Saturday, Dec. 2, to celebrate more than 450 years of West African influence on the communities of Spuds, Elkton and Armstrong, located in southwestern St. Johns County.
Activities will include food, music, dance performances, craft demonstrations and presentations from a variety of cultural organizations.
“We are thrilled to collaborate with the S.E.A. community to host the event which commemorates the cultural heritage of some of our county’s earliest residents,” says Christina Parrish Stone, executive director of St. Johns Cultural Council. “The goal of the festival is to highlight St. Augustine’s Black history and the important contributions made by residents of West African descent.”
Musical performers will include the Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters, American jazz musician Doug Carn with vocalist Elaina Monique, and New Orleans-based Big Sams Funky Nation. Jump4Jax, a nonprofit organization promoting health and fitness, will hold double dutch demonstrations, and vendors will feature crafts such as quilting and sweetgrass basket making. Charleston-based Chef BJ Dennis will host a cooking demonstration paying homage to the Gullah Geechee culture. The National Park Service, St. Johns County Libraries, and the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor will be present to provide additional information and activities for all ages.
The event will be held from noon until 5 p.m. at Armstrong Park, 4950 Harvey Avenue, Elkton, and admission is free. Food and beverages will be available for purchase and will benefit the SEA Community Help Resource Center. The S.E.A. Resource Center provides food, clothing, books and more to residents in need to fight hunger and homelessness, and bring awareness to Gullah Geechee heritage in the St. Johns River region.
The communities of Spuds, Elkton and Armstrong are rich in agricultural history and economic development.
Spuds, initially named Holy Branch, grew around the Florida East Coast Railway Line in the 1880s and later thrived on potato farming.
The community of Elkton was strategically positioned near a railroad depot, flourished in the turpentine industry and was later known as “the heart of the Irish potato district” when farmers began to harvest in the area.
Armstrong was established around a sawmill and stands at the southernmost end of the Gullah Geechee Heritage Corridor.
As part of the Gullah Geechee Heritage Corridor, St. Johns County preserves and interprets the history of the Gullah Geechee people at attractions including Fort Mose, the first legally sanctioned, free African settlement in what is now the United States; the Lincolnville neighborhood, a historic neighborhood established by freedmen after the Civil War and listed on the National Register of Historic Places; and the Lincolnville Museum and Cultural Center, a museum exhibiting the community’s rich Black history.
For more information, go to gullahgeecheefestival.com.