By Joel Hall
What began as an effort to unite the Riverdale community in the face of adversity, has matured into one of its most-attended, most-anticipated events of the year -- the Riverdale Fall Festival.
The fifth annual festival will take place this Saturday, Oct. 11, from noon to 7 p.m., at the Travon Wilson Memorial Park, located at 6690 Church Street.
The free event will feature music, entertainment, games, merchandise for sale, a variety of food provided by local vendors, as well as information booths staffed by various non-profit agencies geared toward serving young people.
Riverdale City Councilman Kenny Ruffin, who spearheaded the festival five years ago, is pleased with the support the event is generating.
"In 2004, there was a rise in violence going on in the county," said Ruffin. "We needed to do something. The Fall Festival was the first thing to show that we were serious, because we didn't have anything like this in the community before."
Ruffin said as the city has progressed, the festival has grown into a communitywide event, utilizing lots of volunteer support.
In the process, the festival has incorporated the help of several youth agencies to educate young people about scholarships, pregnancy, the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, and gang violence. This year, the Clayton County Adolescent Coalition, a team of several non-profit agencies focused on youth issues, will provide information to at-risk youths and those caught up in unsafe sex, gangs, drugs, and the juvenile justice system.
In addition to being informative, the event is also a fun, outdoor gathering, featuring face painting, carnival and pony rides, moonwalks, and lots of local entertainment. Lonnie Ballard, assistant city manager, said the happening gives families in Riverdale a recreational outlet before the winter season settles in.
"For me, it's a community-building opportunity for the city," said Ballard. "It's really a one-stop show for entertainment, because you get all of those various components. It's a lot of different things that are brought together under one umbrella."
Throughout the day, there will be a car show, performances by several local choirs, and a featured performance by Tabitha King, from 4-6 p.m.
King, a rhythm and blues, pop, and Christian singer, has opened several times for Frankie Beverly and Maze, and has shared the stage with artists, such as Regina Belle, Keith Washington, Usher, and Ann Nesby.
Ruffin said the event is a good chance for people to get out, know their neighbors, and become more involved in their community.