The format has been changed in response to the times, but organizers will Bring on the Sunshine this weekend nonetheless. The annual festival will be going digital for its 11th year.
Typically a one-day, in-person event celebrating the sights, sounds and immense variety of cultures of Africa, the festival will be offered up online Sunday and Monday this long weekend.
Sisters Alice Penny and Jacqui Terry-Carroll, both Elmira residents, have helped organize Bring on the Sunshine’s annual festival and their summertime Africa Camp for numerous years.
The festival has expanded the six-hour-one-day event into a pair of three-hour sessions over two days, February 14 and 15.
“It’s been a lot of learning for the team. But we actually have a really cool event platform that’s giving us lots of opportunities to build on the things that we’ve always done in the past,” said Terry-Carroll of the move to a virtual format.
The event has a wide variety of local and international talent, workshops, music, art and discussions. One new component that’s been built upon previous years’ traditions is the music stage, which will be streamed both on Facebook and YouTube.
“We always have amazing local artists from the region. But this year, because we’re online, we’ve been able to add in some international artists as well,” she said.
Local musical performances include Errol Blackwood, eKhaya, and Sarah Thrawer, a Toronto-based Juno-nominated drummer originally from Tanzania.
Another staple of the annual celebration that has made a smooth transition to digital is the vendor marketplace.
“Every year at the live event, we always have a vendor’s marketplace, which is super popular. And of course, that’s challenging with COVID. But this year, the platform that we’re using, you’re able to have a vendor booth that gives you a FaceTime interaction with people who visit your booth. And then it’s got links to all of your social media and your website, all that kind of thing so that you can manage purchases, but also you can have like live conversations with people and demonstrations and that kind of stuff. So that’s like, pretty exciting. And I think anybody in the region actually has done anything like that, yet.”
The panel discussion portion of this year’s event is centered around Black migration, past and present.
“Alice and I are both from Zimbabwe, in Africa, and we both live in Elmira, which is kind of an interesting connection. We have a personal interest in, obviously connecting with our community here, and telling our story here, but also learning the stories of previous Black settlers in the region, so, looking at something like the Queen’s Bush settlement.
The storytelling part of the event is what Penny is most excited for, whereas her sister is looking forward to connecting with people and learn from one another, something that has dwindled in the age of COVID-19.
Another unique offering from this year’s fest is the art gallery.
“We have, we found a software that provides a 3D interface, kind of like you’re live in a video game. And so we’re setting up an art shop that has, again, local artists, international artists, and a special section on Zimbabwean sculpture, which is stunning and gorgeous . I’m really excited to share that with people as well,” said Penny.
Both Penny and Terry-Carroll are urging people to register online.
“We know that some people don’t like to register for things, which is why we’re streaming. But there will be special content that’s all free. The whole event is free, but there’s special content you can only access from within the event platform. So, people, register and come inside, they’ll see what those things are,” said Penny, noting an incentive for registering rather than catching the streamed content.
More information is available from the organization’s website.