World Joins Chicagoans To Celebrate In Grand Style! .... "This should be a national event for Diasporans" -Akoto Dr. La-Kumi, a popular Ghanaian dentist in Canada, Mr. Chuck Bowen (Chicago mayor's representative), Nana Ghartey IV (Omanhene of Winneba), Ghanaweb International CEO, Mr. Francis Akoto, Mr. Charles Nimmo N-Mensah a.k.a Mr. CNN of Ghanaweb fame, Mr. Clement Timpo, Nana Owusu Bempah (former GNC presidents) and led thousands of people from various states in the Unites States and many visitors around the world to celebrate the sixteenth annual Ghanafest, a cultural exposition of durbar of chiefs, show of African arts and the taste of Ghanaian food at the historic Washington Park, Picnic Grove 10, Chicago, in grand style. Mr. Reuben Hadzide led the crowd in observance of a minute's silence in honor of the late Kwaku Lartey, founding member and former president of the Ghana National Council, who passed away in Ghana last year. Ghanafest, which was started about sixteen years ago, mushroomed from Chicago Ga-Adangbe citizens' yearly celebration of Homowo, a traditional harvest celebration by the Gas in Ghana. The festival which grew to over twenty thousand participants last year, had a fewer attendance, but the smaller space at Picnic Grove 10 made the park congested and full of people and merchandise, as guests and visitors traveled from all over the world to be part of this great fiesta.
For the first time, the city of Chicago put up a jumping-jack, which provided excitement to many children who formed long queue to have their turn to jump in the enclosed blue, pink-and yellow air-filled enclosure. In his keynote address, Dr. La-Kumi, a famous Ghanaian dentist and former Consul General of Ghana in Toronto appealed to Ghanaians in the Diaspora to join hands in building their motherland. “The country needs its citizens in the Diaspora to do their part in national development efforts. Most sons and daughters from other nations have come together to help their countries achieve the commanding heights of their economic development and it behooves on all of us to do the same to help our country as well”, he said. Mr. Chuck Bowen, special representative of the mayor of Chicago, his Excellency, Richard M. Daley, presented greetings from the mayor. He commended the Ghana National Council of Metropolitan Chicago for its charitable activities and efforts to unite the Ghanaian, African, African-American and Caribbean communities whilst bringing the history and cultural traditions of Ghana to the people of Chicago. In a message to the organizers, the governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich noted, “I am proud of Chicagoland area's ethnic diversity and I am equally proud that Ghanaians are a strong and vibrant part of this diversity. Ghanafest is a wonderful way to cultivate an awareness of the culture and traditions of Ghana”. The executives in a message to the community said, “This year we are celebrating Ghanafest with a difference. This year we hope to share not only Ghanaian culture and food but also business enterprises, intellectual abilities and tourism that our country has to offer to the world at large. This year we also hope to take a virtual tour of the various traditional divisions of our country through the cultural displays we present to you. We are also celebrating Ghanafest 2004 in remembrance of one of the founding Fathers of the Ghana National Council of Metropolitan Chicago, Reverend Dr. Kwaku Lartey who passed away in December last year. It was through his great efforts that the Ghana National Council of Metropolitan Chicago is what it is today. Our sympathies and prayers go to the family he left behind. The new leadership of the Ghana National Council will call on all Ghanaians in Chicago to take the next bold step to acquire a place of our own, the long awaited Ghana House”. Conspicuously missing at the function was the president of the Ghana National Council, Dr. Abdallah Yahaha, who tendered his resignation letter to the vice-president, Mrs. Elizabeth Bekoe, three weeks to the festival. Mrs. Bekoe therefore takes over the remaining term of Dr. Yahaya, which ends in December this year as president of the Ghana National Council. The Ghana National Council honored Kate and Alex Annan of Annaka Enterprise for their generous contributions to the Council. The Adowa and Borborbor troupes were awarded a plaque for their contribution to Ghanafest over the years. Former executive members of the council, Mr. Emmanuel Amoonoo and Reverend Asabere Agyeman-Badu were awarded plaques for their service to the community and the Council. The event itself substantially represents the African Diaspora. Vendors from Mali, Ghana, Nigeria, Liberia, Senegal, Tanzania,West Indies and merchants from Chicago's African American communities made for a blend of cultural history, admiration and entertainment. Festival goers were treated to seemingly endless caches of African fabrics like Kenté Cloth custom-made into Dashikis, sashes, hats, head-wraps, shawls and coats for men and women. Vendor tables displayed assortments of African jewelry such as ankhs, “butter” and Baltic amber-colored necklaces, wrist bands. African art, crafts and paintings, which were on display on most vendors tables. Ghanaian dishes served by member organizations of the Ghana National Council in such combinations as kenkey, fried fish, shito, Red-red (combination of fried plantain, cooked-beans and red palm oil, jollof-rice, okro-soup, waatse, omotuo (rice-gun) were a lasting mouth-watering experience for patrons. Attendants were as diverse as the assortment of delicacies served and art and crafts on display. Egyptian Lady, 33-year-old Yamin Agyeman, whose husband is a Ghanaian, was visiting the festival for the first time from Austin, Texas after her friends notified her about the festival. They learnt about festival on the internet. Christine Williams, a Caucasian, from Lisle Illinois, has been attending Ghanafest every year since she stumbled into the celebrations 11 years ago was there. “I spoke to you last year, yep, I am here again and this is number eleven”, she says with some pride. “What I like about it is that you discover traditions, good food and enjoy yourself with good music,” she repeated. I stumbled into, Joseph Peterson, an African-American from New York I met last year visiting for the first time. “Last year I promised you to count on me to be back, I love it, my warmest thanks to the organizers for a well organized function again this year.” He was visiting this time with his family! I did not meet Tay Agbozu from Italy this year but I met a one guy from Italy, a few from Britain, a lot more from states across the United States, the largest groups were from Indiana, Cleveland, Atlanta, NewYork, Ohio and Michigan. Majority of the visitors learnt of the festival from Ghanaweb.com. The only newcomers I met were Mr. Anthony Goodman from the Republic of South Africa and his family who heard of the festival from friends. Eye catching group of Ghanaian traditional Chiefs, Queens and their entourage looked regal and royal as each group take their turn on the dance floor. Mr. Yeboah of Millennium sounds fame lived up to his name with good selection of Hip-Hop, High-Life, Soukous, Reggae and other popular music to the joy of old and new fans. Live band led by Dan Boadi, president of the musician union of Ghana in Chicago, Wilson Walsh & Frimpong (Amakye Dede fame), Kwame Bediako and Sam Ghansa, Reggae musicians, Joe Atiso, (Ramblers International fame) and Kofi Hanson of Dansika, played multi-national dance music. Young talented Rapp musician from Ohio, staged his debut at Ghanafest with his personally well crafted rap music to the pleasure of a lot of music lovers in attendance. As usual, the Borborbor and Adowa troupes thrilled traditional music fans in the crowd with admiring dance movements. Mr. Emmanuel Papafio, “Chicago Mayor” and Abdul Briamah were the MC'S for the occasion. Ghanaian media abroad present were Mr. Berko Akoto, African Spectrum, Bolingbrook IL; Mr. Bright Boateng, Ghanaian Herald, Atlanta; Mr Emmanuel Ayiku, Ghanaian News, Toronto; Mr. CNN of Ghanaweb.com fame and freelance video producer for Ghanaian television stations, Mr. Kwame Pongo from Cleveland. The main sponsors of the event were, Western Union Inc. The City of Chicago, Annaka Enterprise, A.T.A ,Chicago Suntimes, Ford Motors, Makola African Market, Oakley Construction, Osibisa Rentals and Ghanaweb International. Majority of Ghanaians from other states had the view that the Ghanaian communities in the Diaspora should come together to celebrate this great festival in Chicago and possibly rotate it every four years around the globe. Next year's Ghanafest is scheduled on Saturday July 30 2005. GHP would like to thank Mr. Reuben Hadzide, Mr. Ebenezer Nsiah, Mrs. Elizabeth Bekoe, Mr. Sampson Akotuah and Mrs. Sally Owusu for their tireless efforts which made this festival a great success.