NIAGARA FALLS – Words of wisdom. Songs of strife and sacrifice. Characters with courage.
The city’s contribution to the Underground Railroad will be celebrated at next weekend’s Freedom Trail Festival.
This year’s event, the 14th annual, will include re-enactors, storytelling, singers, musicians and poets, said organizer and co-founder David Blackburn.
“The event is basically a way of celebrating the history of the Underground Railroad,” Blackburn said, “and the history of people helping people to escape slavery to freedom.”
The family-friendly event runs from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday on the grounds of Earl W. Brydges Public Library, 1425 Main St.
The theme of this year’s event is “Create History Worth Repeating.”
There will be prizes and educational games, as well as vendors on hand.
“The goal is that people could come out and learn about the history, meet other people,” Blackburn said, “to kind of create an environment where people of different backgrounds can feel comfortable” and exchange ideas and information.
For the first nine years of the festival’s existence, it was held on Main Street in front of Wrobel Towers near Ontario Street.
It originally was conceived as a way to celebrate the different communities that bordered Main Street, Blackburn said.
Harriet Tubman, the famed abolitionist who helped slaves escape through the secret network known as the Underground Railroad, is believed to have taken escaped slaves across the former Suspension Bridge, where the Whirlpool Bridge is currently located, into Canada.
Abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass wrote about Tubman’s crossing, Blackburn said.
“She could hear Niagara Falls in the background while she crossed to Canada,” he said.
Artists scheduled to perform include Marsha McWilson, Vernon James, Pure Pleasure, 4.0, N 2 Deep, Nubiessence Jazz Ensemble, Solomon Dixon, Cho Son Julius Spencer, Sister Wanda Strong Howard, Shadde Swag, Denise Easterling, Dee White, DJ Mac, Joseph Lowery and Xavier Walker.
Blackburn, who co-founded the event with Bonnie Soley, is still looking for vendors and sponsors.