Area Info / Goombay! Festival 2009

Goombay! Festival 2009 - A Perspective

I was walking around downtown Asheville the other day and unknowingly stumbled upon the Goombay! Festival. Fortunately, I had my camera with me and was able to capture the setting up of the weekend's festival. Just as interesting as the music was the vendors and the goods that they offered at surprisingly low rates. I bought an Angela Davis shirt for ten dollars. I also had the pleasure of experiencing the festival from a uniquely photographic point of view because I literally just stumbled into this celebration of cultures with no previous knowledge of its happening. I had nothing but my camera to help me observe the event.

After getting home, I turned to the Internet in order to learn a little bit more about what I had just experienced. Goombay! Is organized by the YMI Cultural Center in Asheville. The experience combines cultures in several very interesting ways. Not only do the live acts have a great deal of cultural diversity and influence, the vendors also provide a diverse range of culturally-based goods. From hand-made childrens clothes to sculptures and jewelry, nearly anything can be found in the lively street where everything was set up. My personal favorite offering were the vast variety of T-shirts for sale. Colorful Michael Jackson shirts, noble Obama shirts and a great variety of shirts containing other important cultural figures occupied the ally of vendors tents. The vendors themselves were very lively and excited to be involved in the Gombay! Experience.

In addition to vendors, several different social and political booths were present. For example, the Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice and Building Bridges: Going Beyond Racism Through Understanding and Respect. Food and refreshments were abound as well. Mr. Gene's Fish and Bar-B-Que had a trailer offering different varieties of fries and bar-b-que. If that's not enough, three "Bele Chere" style food stands were set up for the incoming crowd. The usual selection of hot dogs, funnels cakes and turkey legs were available making Goombay! a festival experience similar to others hosted by Asheville, but the addition of less traditional food vendors helped spice up the selection and include the global nature of the festival.

After perusing the vendor stands, I made my way down to the main stage. It was a little early, so the group was still going through their sound check. Reggae Infinity was getting all of their sounds right and I was able to get some good pictures of the inter-working of the group during the sound check. It was around this time I had to head back to my car in order to go to work, but on my way back I got to watch a young Reggae fan who was barley able to walk but more than capable of feeling the vibes and dancing along.

I had a great time during my brief visit to the Goombay! festival. It caught me completely off-guard, so I think the photographs will better capture why this festival has a way to express a more international side of Asheville. I was unable to stay until the music began but nonetheless, from my point of view, the gathering was a unique success.

-- Ben Norris,
Staff Writer,