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Multifest merges fun, diversity

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In 23 years, Larry Moles has only missed one Multifest.

Moles, of Charleston, was running the Donna's Lemonade stand at the event on Saturday. Between handing out cold cups of lemonade to a steady stream of customers, he said the festival is wonderful for West Virginia because it touches every cultural base.

And it's good for the lemonade business, too.

"They can't get enough of it," he said, cracking a grin.

The Multicultural Festival of West Virginia, which began Friday and runs through August 5 at the Capitol Complex grounds, celebrates diversity through food and music.

On Saturday, Mischelle Washington wandered through tents filled with clothes and jewelry and stopped to buy an anklet to match some scarves she'd also purchased.

Washington, of Dunbar, said she's been attending the festival for the past 12 or 13 years. She always gets lemonade, and she always does a little shopping.

As Washington rooted through a stack of dollar bills to pay for her anklet, vendor Ferris Cockrell of Dayton, Ohio, explained that the bracelet was custom-made.

"There's no other one like it," Washington said, smiling.

Across the plaza, Donna Henderson held a funnel cake in one hand and a cell phone in the other as she recorded video of her grandson jumping on the quad trampoline.

Jaylen Jones, 5, was strapped into a harness that clipped to yellow bungee cords attached to the top of the trampoline, enabling him to leap from the rubbery base beneath him and soar up into the air.

"This is fun!" he yelled out to Henderson as he bounced.

Henderson hadn't known how long she planned on staying, but she also hadn't realized Aaron Neville, an R&B singer, was taking the stage that evening. She and her family would be staying to hear him sing, she said.

After climbing down from the trampoline, Jaylen bounded over to grandmother.

"I want to ride it again," he said.

Meanwhile, Maryellen McVey and her 9-year-old daughter, Brandy, took a break from the afternoon sun near the steps of the Capitol.

As they sat by the fountain, their 9-month-old Labrador- and shepherd-mix puppy drank out of a Tupperware container at their feet.

The family from Cross Lanes was visiting Multifest for the first time, Maryellen said, making a grab for the dog's leash.

Brandy said her favorite part of the festival was the food, even though she hadn't had any yet.

"She's all about the cotton candy," Maryellen said.

James Salmond traveled from Atlanta to come to Multifest and visit his wife's grandmother, Charleston-native Julia Wagner, who goes by "Mama Duby."

His first experience with the festival was the night before. He gestured toward the stage and said he liked the set-up because it left a lot of room for dancing.

Salmond said he didn't have a preference about the genre of entertainment, be it rap, jazz or gospel.

"Just as long as it's good music," he said.

Wagner sat across from Salmond, eating a funnel cake loaded with powdered sugar.

She said between bites that the festival was important because it was about all different races of people coming together.

"I like everything about it," she said.

Multifest continues August 5, with a gospel music performance from the Nevels Sisters and jazz numbers from Lao Tizer.


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