Norman Groovefest a sign of community, rights awareness
NORMAN — Kara McKee was 16 in 1996 when an old man handed her a basketful of flowers to pass out at Andrews Park.
“I got hooked,” she said. “That was when I knew I wanted to be a part of Groovefest.”
Ten years before that encounter, Norman resident David Slemmons was there organizing the very first festival.
“The event is sort of self-sustaining,” he said of the free, biannual one-day music and arts festival entering its 25th year. Organizers claim it’s the longest-running such human-rights event worldwide.
“I think that’s a great coup for Norman,” said Slemmons, whom patrons and organizers consider the “Grandfather of Groovefest.” “You’d expect that in London where Amnesty (International) was founded or in San Francisco or in Oslo or Paris or some place like that.”
Although organization of the festival has changed hands in its quarter-century existence — between individuals such as McKee and groups including the University of Oklahoma chapter of Amnesty International — its purpose has endured.
“That’s really what it’s all been about, gathering local people together,” said Aimee Rook, one of this year’s organizers. “To promote community through music and art and raise … awareness.”
This year’s event doesn’t have a specific theme. Instead, organizers hope to educate with speakers between performance sets and with informational booths operated by awareness organizations such as Fair Trade, the Norman Sustainability Network and Mindy’s Memories, a primate sanctuary in Newcastle. They also intend to promote local businesses with 10 to 15 vendors selling handmade jewelry and clothing.
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