CANTON – The African American Arts Festival is back for its second year at a new location.

The event, which features live music, dancing, drumlines, artwork, children’s activities and other entertainment, will be from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday at Centennial Plaza on Market Avenue between Third and Fourth Street NW. 

A welcome ceremony is at 11 a.m. Friday.

While the event celebrates the arts heritage of the African-American community, the festival is open to all, said Betty Smith, executive director of the EN-RICH-MENT Fine Arts Academy in Canton.

EN-RICH-MENT presents and coordinates the event, which also includes vendors selling crafts, clothing and other items, as well as exhibitors.

Local artists will be featured at 4 p.m. Saturday. 

“I want to showcase the artists, I want to showcase the singers, dancers, drummers and genres of music,” Smith said. “We’re going to have R&B, hip-hop, gospel, reggae and rap.

“It’s for everybody because we just don’t have African Americans on the stage.”

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There’s also Zumba at 10:30 a.m. and yoga at 11:30 a.m. Saturday. Dancing in the Plaza is at noon, followed by the EN-RICH-MENT Dance Co. at 1:30 p.m.

Here’s a look at five things to do at the event:

Josh and Maria Cribbs

Josh Cribbs, a former Cleveland Browns player, and his wife, Maria, will be guest emcees from 5 to around 8 p.m. Saturday.

The couple hosts the “Cribbs in the CLE: Josh and Maria Live” TV show.

Signed by the Cleveland Browns in 2005, Cribbs, a former quarterback for Kent State University, was a wide receiver and highly-productive return specialist.

“They invited me and some of the EN-RICH-MENT youth to be on their first TV show several years ago,” Smith said. “We stay in touch. They are big supporters of EN-RICH-MENT.”

SMOOSH ice cream sandwiches

SMOOSH Cookies will be at the festival from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday serving custom ice cream sandwiches from its truck.

A hunk of ice cream is squeezed between two cookies. Topping off the indulgences are sprinkles and Fruity Pebble cereal, in addition to other options.

Sampling SMOOSH goodies also will offer a look at what’s to come at the Hall of Fame Village retail center at the campus of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton. SMOOSH plans to have a shop at the center, which is under construction.

Isaac Bruce, a 2020 inductee of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, will operate a SMOOSH Cookies location in the Village’s Fan Engagement Zone, serving its signature item, as well as doughnuts, churros, waffles, brownies, sundaes, milkshakes and coffee. It will be the first SMOOSH Cookie location in Ohio. The company has locations in Houston, College Station, Texas, and Plantation, Florida.

Other eats also will be served at the African American Arts Festival, including soul food, Smith said.

Drums, drums, drums

Anyone who is familiar with the Canton-based EN-RICH-MENT Fine Arts Academy knows of its talented youth drumline, which will perform both days of the festival.

But there’s more percussion, including a drum circle with Elec Simon at 5 p.m. Friday; and the Shaw High School drum line at 2 p.m. Saturday; a drum set competition at 2:30 p.m. Saturday; and a drum circle/fashion show at 5 p.m. Saturday.

Highly skilled with the sticks, Simon is well known in the area, and has been featured at downtown Canton events in the past. 

Gregory Watkins and The Unit Band

Live music will be featured throughout the festival.

Highlights include Gregory J Watkins and The Worship & Praise Chorale at 8:30 p.m. Friday and the Unit Band at 8 p.m. Saturday.

Friday’s entertainment includes Skylife Band at 1 p.m., For Keeps at 4:15 p.m. and Ron Pratt at 7 p.m., as well as a tambourine contest at 7:30 p.m. and Inspiration Dance team at 7:45 p.m.

Saturday’s entertainment also includes Starlight at 6:30 p.m., Raw Expressions at 7 p.m. and Lovely Sumlin at 7:45 p.m.

5K run and remembrance walk

New are the 5K run or walk and a one-mile remembrance walk for those lost to COVID.

For Smith, who heads EN-RICH-MENT, the walk is especially meaningful. Her husband, Mark M. Smith, died of COVID at age 88 in early August. Betty Smith also had fallen seriously ill with COVID last summer before recovering.

“Her being able to be at the festival and participate in the COVID walk in memory of our loved ones is going to be so significant,” said Greg Reaves, a nephew of Smith’s late husband. “It’s really going to be a heartfelt occasion.”

Registration for the run and walk is open until it starts at 8:30 a.m. Saturday.

The 5K event, coordinated by Run to You Racing, starts and finishes at Centennial Plaza.

For more information about the 5K event, including entry fees, go to

Reach Ed at 330-580-8315 and

On Twitter @ebalintREP

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