Downtown Raleigh festival thrown to help tornado victims

Posted July 29, 2011 11:00 a.m. EDT
Updated July 30, 2011 7:53 p.m. EDT

— For the past few years, the last weekend of July has been time to celebrate Raleigh Wide Open, but a tight budget forced officials to canceled this year's festival. Raleigh's creative community is having its own celebration this weekend, and organizers say the party has a purpose.

This Saturday’s ComeUnityNow Festival features music, dance and arts at City Plaza in downtown Raleigh. The proceeds will help the Wake Interfaith Disaster Team and The Green Chair Project, which provides low-cost furniture for needy families, including recent tornado victims.

Gwendolyn Igbinovia says she remembers the sound of the tornado as it passed over her house on April 16.

“All I could hear was like the earth was splitting. I thought the world was coming to an end,” she said.

Like so many homes, trees crashed through her roof and rain poured in and ruined everything she had. Charities helped provide the basics for victims, but three months later, many families are still hurting.

Mary Jane Clark, an organizer of the ComeUnityNow Festival, said she hopes the money raised can help people who are in a bad situation.

“They are the nuts and bolts, the hammers and nails that will put these people as close to home as they can, so they don't fall through the safety net,” she said.

Igbinovia said things are looking up for her and her five grandchildren. Last week, The Green Chair provided her family with new couches, beds and a kitchen table. They had been living without furniture and eating dinner and sleeping on the floor.

Igbinovia said she will never forget the kindness of charities that were there to help right after the tornado, when she needed it most.

“They give. They give kindly, and they see your needs, and they meet your needs,” she said.

The ComeUnityNow Festival will run until 10 p.m. Saturday at City Plaza on Fayetteville Street. Thirty musical acts will perform, along with dancers and artists. The festival is free, but visitors can buy $10 VIP tickets to get closer to the stages.

The group is hoping to raise $100,000 through the sale of VIP tickets, on-site donations and a live art auction. WRAL News is a media sponsor of the festival.