In just its second year, the State of Dade Heritage Festival and Country Fair is changing its focus from the past to the future - the recovery of Trenton and Sand Mountain after they were hit by storms.
"With the disaster in this area, our thoughts are that we need some sort of normalization to happen in this area, so people can get off the chain saws and the cleanup efforts just to relax for a night," said Butch Raper, chairman of the festival committee and president of the Dade County Chamber of Commerce.
The six-day festival kicks off May 16 and will offer people an escape into music, games and carnival fun, and now will benefit storm victims in Dade County and neighbors in Alabama, Raper said. Donation boxes will be scattered throughout the festival site at the county recreational facility south of Trenton.
This year's festival marks the 66th anniversary of President Harry Truman's acknowledgment of the county's return to the union after its supposed independence declaration at the beginning of the Civil War, officials said.
When the tornado hit Trenton last week, festival planners were worried they might have to cancel because of the storm's impact.
But when Dade County Chamber of Commerce director and festival committee treasurer Debbie Tinker talked to people in the community, "They said, 'We need this. We need to find some pleasure and go back to normal as much as possible ... and know that it will be OK,'" she said.
Dade and its neighbors need the emotional break and to have some fun, she said.
Peter Cervelli, who manages the Better Hometown program for the city of Trenton, said Blood Assurance will take blood donations, and a fundraiser for a local youth who has been disabled also is planned.
Evan Stone, festival committee spokesman, said the festival will include "a carnival with rides from Wednesday to Saturday, and there'll be entertainment each night."
Cervelli and Stone said they'd like to hear from corporate sponsors who want to help the relief effort.