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The North Carolina Rice Festival Coming!

The North Carolina Rice Festival Coming!
Dan Dodge

The event to celebrate the Gullah Geechee heritage was postponed for two years because of Covid but is now gearing up for a fun-filled weekend in March. The North Carolina Rice Festival’s main purpose is to raise awareness of the history and significance of rice production and how Brunswick County developed because of it. It is also a celebration of the Gullah Geechee culture. African Americans in the area can discover and learn more about their heritage and connection to the Gullah Geechee people by purchasing an African Ancestry DNA test to help them discover their lineage and tribal relationships. The program will kick off with a dinner on Friday, March 4th, at the Leland Cultural Arts Center. Doors open at 5:45 p.m. and the program will start at 6:30 p.m. The dinner, which starts at 6:50 p.m., will be catered by Chef Keith Rhodes, a contestant in Top Chef and well renowned Gullah Geechee cook. Also present at the dinner will be Ron and Natalie Daise, stars of the Nickelodeon show Gullah Gullah Island. Tickets are on sale for $110 per person.

On March 5th, there will be indoor and outdoor events. (All events will comply with current COVID19 restrictions.) The indoor events on March 5th will cost $10. The outside events are free and start at 9:00 a.m., and conclude at 6:00 p.m.

The Indoor Event on March 5th will feature a video presentation of the Gullah Geechee history and heritage. There will also be the viewing of the documentary, “Gullah Roots,” which follows the story of Sarah Leon as she shares the history of Gullah Geechee people. The outside events, centered around the Outdoor Stage, start at 11:30 a.m., and will end at 5:30 p.m. These events include storytellers, artistic renderings reflecting Gullah Geechee life and music expressions of the Gullah Geechee culture. These story tellers include “Auntie Pearlie Sue,” local artist Ian Davis, The Gullah Geechee Ring Shouters and Leroy Hopper and his All Starz. Leroy Harper was the backup “horn man” for James Brown.

In addition to these performances there will be vendors selling food and items relating to Gullah Geechee culture. The weekend of events and presentations is being sponsored by The Leland Tourism and Development Authority, WWAY and The Brunswick Arts Council. The NC Rice Festival is a nonprofit organization, and it welcomes new volunteers and new sponsors. To get more details you could visit their website and email northcarolinaricefestiva[email protected] for inquiries about volunteering and/or sponsorship.

Contributors to the program include:
Ron and Natalie Daise are amazing entertainers and will be performing at the dinner on March 4. The couple are best known for their roles in the Nickelodeon show Gullah Gullah Island, a children’s show that was centered around Gullah Geechee culture. Natalie is originally from South Carolina but grew up in Rochester, New York. Ron is from Saint Helena Island, South Carolina. The two met in 1983 and have performed song and stories across the country ever since. They have been recognized with the 1996 South Carolina Order of the Palmetto and the 1997 State of South Carolina Folk Heritage Award. Ron and Natalie Daise continue to make massive contributions to the push for educating the general public on Gullah Geechee culture and heritage.

Anita Singleton Prather or “Aunt Pearlie Sue”, is an entertainer who travels around the country demonstrating what Gullah Geechee culture is like through stories. According to her website,, Ms. Prather prides herself on “entertaining audiences with Gullah-flavored folktales”. She has been invited to perform at the White House, the United Nations headquarters, and Black Hollywood in LA, California. She has received Aesop Fables Award and The South Carolina Jean Laney Folk Heritage Award, to name a few.

Jonathan Green is an African American painter that specializes in contemporary art. According to his website, Mr. Green has 4 honorary doctoral degrees, and numerous awards for his work. Mr. Green is from Gardens Corner, South Carolina and often portrays scenes that reflect the experiences of African Americans in the American South, including the Gullah Geechee culture. The painter’s work is featured in museums around the world, and is one of the leading examples of African American contemporary in the United States.

The Rice Festival will also welcome the Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters to perform this year. The Geechee Gullah Ring shouters are a group that was established in 1980 from Darien, Georgia, in an effort to carry on the traditional dance of Ring Shouting. Ring Shouting is described by Index Journal’s as a religious spiritual dance practiced by Gullah Geechee people which originated during slave times.

The dance draws influence from West African cultural dances and many praise dances seen in black churches today. Ring Shouting consists mostly of clapping and stomping in a circle and singing gospel spirituals. It is viewed as a call and response to God. The Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters have become nationally renowned and are helping many to embrace their heritage.
This is a festival of history and
culture that you don’t want to miss.



Friday, March 4, 2022
Leland Cultural Arts Auditorium
5:45 pm Doors Open
6:30 pm Welcome, Introduction of Guests
6:50 pm Dinner Served
8:40 pm Introduction of Performers
8:45 pm Entertainment – Ron and Natalie Daise
9:45 pm Acknowledgements, Closing Remarks

Saturday, March 5, 2022
Leland Cultural Arts Auditorium
8:30 am Doors Open
9:00 am Welcome, Event Introduction, Overview of Festival Program
9:10 am Opening Remarks – Victoria Smalls, CEO, Gullah Geechee

Cultural Heritage Corridor
9:20 – 10:10 am NCRF History Video Followed b y Panel Discussion and Q/A
10:20 – 11;50 am Showing of SCTV Documentary – “Gullah Roots,” Panel Discussion
12:00 – 12:30 pm Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters
12:30 – 1:30 pm Break
1:45 – 2:45 pm Rice and Race – Gullah Artist, Jonathan Green, Presenter
3:00 – 3:30 pm Gullah Historical Storyteller, Anita Singleton Prather as Aunt Pearly Sue

Outdoor Stage
11:30 am Blues DeVille
12:30 pm Ian Davis
1:30 pm Aunt Pearlie Sue
2:15 pm Tina Smith
3:15 pm Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters
4:00 pm “Funky” Leroy Harper and his All Starz
5:30 pm Closing Remarks, NCRF Chairman, George Beatty

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