The Clewiston News

Harlem revs up for Brown Sugar 2014

Music is an essential aspect of Brown Sugar Festival each year. Photo: Brown Sugar Festival 2012

Known as the Brown Sugar Festival, the 36th annual event promises to bring a level of excitement to the area’s residents, as well as those who will be visiting from Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, West Palm Beach and points in between.

The main event, which will occur on Saturday, May 3, is slated to start off with a parade in the morning hours on Harlem Academy Avenue. That will be followed by an assortment of live entertainment and family get-together opportunities throughout the afternoon and evening at various locations in Harlem.

As one of the area’s most popular annual events, Harlem community leaders expect to host well over 1,000 people throughout the big day, which will bring in lots of traffic and, to ensure safety for all, a police presence.

Typically a host of sheriff’s offices (Hendry, Glades, Palm Beach, Charlotte and Lee, among others) work together to maintain a level of order in efforts to allow everyone to enjoy the occasion without the threat of violence. But according to Brown Sugar Festival Committee member and longtime Harlem resident Al Gary, it won’t be necessary to that extent this weekend.

With that said, the expectation is for the Brown Sugar Festival to be a celebration of families coming together from near and far. It’s set up to be more like a family reunion of sorts.

“We’re trying to get everything in one area,” said Gary, who is also the co-overseer of this year’s talent show with Loretta Braithwaite. “We want to keep it simple and take it back to the way it used to be.”

The Brown Sugar Festival, which started in 1978, was founded by Harlem pioneers Gwendolyn Patrick. It has grown to become one of South Florida’s most recognized festivals year in and year out.

“This year’s Brown Sugar Festival is a homecoming for our alumni of the Harlem Academy,” Hendry County Commissioner and longtime Harlem resident Janet Taylor said. “The culture experience it brings is like none you can describe anywhere.”

Here’s a listing of the events that are slated to take place at this year’s Brown Sugar Festival:

Friday, May 2
• Brown Sugar Banquet with the Class of 1964 at Harlem Civic Center – 7 p.m.
• Talent Show at Clewiston Middle School – 7 p.m.

Saturday, May 3
• Brown Sugar Parade at Harlem Civic Center – 10 a.m.
• Teen Dance at Harlem Civic Center – 9 p.m.
For more information on the 36th annual Brown Sugar Festival, visit the Web at or contact Brown Sugar Festival Committee chairperson Tim Brown at 910-797-3500.