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Farmington Hills

Haitian Festival concept approved at Farmington City Council

August 14, 2014

FARMINGTON HILLS — Magareth Corkery, Shirley Alce-Konate and Marie Soledad Nelson hope to bring the spirit of Haiti to Farmington next summer with a festival, the first of its kind for the city.

The three are members of the Detroit-based Haitian Network Group of Detroit, founded in 1999, which provides Haitians and those in the metropolitan Detroit area the opportunity to exchange ideas, discuss current events and network.

During a July 21 City Council meeting, City Council members voted unanimously to approve in concept the Haitian art and craft festival, Bel Bagay Lakay, July 11-12, 2015, at the Sundquist Pavilion in Riley Park. Bel Bagay Lakay is Haitian Creole for “beautiful things from home.”

The group will discuss the festival in depth before the City Council by next spring.

The festival will feature food, music, art, handcrafted items, children events and more.

“A lot of people don’t know too much about Haiti or Haitian culture. This is an opportunity for education and (for) local businesses in the Farmington area to have more visibility through this event,” Nelson said after the meeting.

City Manager Vincent Pastue said during the meeting that the Farmington Public Safety Department, the Farmington Downtown Development Authority and other entities will work with festival organizers to iron out the details.

“I think we got a good, general concept,” Pastue said, adding that they will discuss the potential layout and capacity of the festival, and the best options to suit the city and festival.

City Councilman Steven Schneemann suggested that the network reach out to the DDA, while City Councilwoman JoAnne McShane suggested they reach out to the Multicultural/Multiracial Community Council of Farmington and Farmington Hills, and other groups to help them along the way.

“I think the leaders of that commission will be very happy to assist you in any way,” she said.

The festival, which is expected to draw about 150 attendees, was proposed nearly a year in advance because the network plans to bring Haitian artists to the event, which requires admittance to the the United States through a visa, which can take months to acquire.

“Artists from Haiti need to obtain a visa to come here, and this does not happen overnight,” Nelson said. “We plan way ahead.”

The network is also trying to work with the Haitian tourism department to identify and support Haitian artists attending.

The number of artists from Haiti attending will be set by the end of the year.

Several Haitian-born artists throughout the United States are also set to show off their work at the festival.

With large Haitian communities in Lansing, Grand Rapids, Detroit, and several Haitian families in the Farmington area, the network said it is a must to have the festival in Farmington.

“Another reason we picked Farmington is because … we are quite familiar with the area, do a lot of our shopping there, are familiar with Riley Park and the (Sundquist) Pavilion, and want to make sure we can have access to this,” Corkery said.

Although this is the network’s first time hosting a festival, they are not new to putting on big events geared toward Haitian awareness in metro Detroit. Other events they have hosted include a conference at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History and an event at the Arab American National Museum.

The group’s goal is to have festival details finalized at the end of the year.

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