May 18, 2023
Coming together to celebrate the summer solstice
Summer is right around the corner, and with it comes all of those highly anticipated festivals full of food, fun, music, and crafts. Returning to downtown Florence, Ala., for the third consecutive year is the increasingly popular Festival of Litha, hosted by Hesperia Mystic Shoppe out of Sheffield, Alabama.
Last year, the festival was held in Wilson Park in Florence and featured dozens of local vendors and live music over the course of three days. This year, the event will feature close to 80 vendors and will be held on Sunday, June 11, 2023, at a new location: The Historic Sweetwater Depot located at 502 S Royal Avenue in downtown Florence.
“I have felt drawn to this historic area of Florence,” says Hesperia owner Kendall Gilchrist, “and I am happy to introduce an event to bring more attention to this side of town that holds cute little restaurants.”
The festival is a FREE family friendly event that runs from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and locals are invited to come out and enjoy some great food, local arts/crafts/goods, and live music by local and surrounding-area musicians.
Litha (pronounced Lee-tha) is the celebration of the summer solstice and the beginning of Summer, which occurs this year on Wednesday, June 21. It has been a celebration amongst many cultures for many, many years but its origins are rooted in Celtic lore. Litha is said to be a time to celebrate the power of nature and its fertility, as the solstice represents the transition from action to nourishment, which is exactly what the sun gives us during the long nights of Summer. Even in those who do not mark the summer solstice, there is an internal flame within when the days get longer, and the sun leads us through better times. By celebrating the sun and the power it provides to all nature, humans are spiritually ignited and thus connected to its life force. For those familiar with the Eastern concepts of yin and yang, the solstice is a time of maximum yang—the longest day of the year.
“This year,” says Gilchrist, “people can expect more of a market feel with bits of entertainment for both adult and kids alike. There will be food, live music, and a bar inside the Depot where you can cool off. We currently have around 80 vendors this year—such growth from around 25 in previous years!”
Vendors will be placed inside and outside The Depot, with many vendors selling metaphysical-themed arts and crafts as well as candles, bath and body goods, jewelry, books, and so much more.
“I've always been community-driven, I just couldn't figure out for a long time what I could do to bring together like-minded individuals and support small businesses like myself,” adds Gilchrist. “It feels good to see others succeed in doing something they love, and I get to witness that at each festival I do now. I'm happy to support these local vendors as they have supported me in so many ways. I hope each of my vendors gain more and more confidence in what they do because some have never had their craft out for the world to see. There are such beautiful, talented, gifted crafters and creators in this area! I'm so glad I can provide a safe space for them.”
As far as the music goes, this year will feature live performances from jazz/funk/blues/rock multi-instrumentalist Charles Brooks, singer/songwriter Bryson Bishop, and pop-rock duo Thrice Sovereign.
Kicking off the live music at 4:30 p.m. will be Dr. Charles Brooks, UNA Entertainment Industries professor and a multi-instrumentalist across a slew of genres. He is most known for his wicked four-mallet jazz vibraphone skills, but he is also a classically trained percussionist who plays drum set, piano, hand drums, synth keytar, and acoustic guitar, to name a few. For Litha, he’ll be rocking faces off with the synth keytar as heard below in this year’s Black History Month tribute to Stevie Wonder. For more on Charles Brooks, visit www.TheCharlesBrooks.com.
Bryson Bishop will take the stage at 5:30 p.m. He is a Shoals-area singer/songwriter who will keep you entertained with some of your favorite covers from artists like James Brown, Michael Jackson, and so many others, and you might just hear an original song or two in his mix. To check out Bryson's beautiful singing, visit him on Facebook and Instagram.
Up next around 6 p.m. will be Florence-area singer/songwriter Aaron Dean.
And closing out the music for the evening at 6:30 p.m. will be Thrice Sovereign, a Florence-based pop-rock female duo comprised of multi-instrumentalist Kristen Borden Talcott and singer/songwriter Amanda Lee Borden Talcott, who recently released their title single from their debut album “Waiting to Thunder.” Their songs are groovy tunes composed in a popular style that draws on heavy guitar riffs and the fat, distorted sounds of hark rock with artistically relatable lyrics. You certainly won’t want to miss the energy! For more on them, visit www.ThriceSovereign.com.
Festival of Litha isn’t all Gilchrist has in the works for this. year, though. On Tuesday, May 23, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., Hesperia Mystic Shoppe and Lava Room will partner to host Brooklyn-based goth-folk musical duo Charming Disaster with a pop-up shops experience full of metaphysical items in downtown Florence on Mobile Street in support of the band. The duo will perform from 8-9:30 p.m. inside the Lava Room, and blue-cup cocktail drinks will be served alongside a delicious menu. You can even take the blue cups out onto Mobile Street to accompany you in your shopping. Charming Disaster will also be selling their merch after the show.
Says Gilchrist, “Overall, it will just be a fun evening to get out midweek and take a break from it all!”
So, mark your calendars, people in the Shoals area! The Charming Disaster Pop-Up Shops Experience happens Tuesday, May 23, from 6-10 p.m. at the Lava Room, and Festival of Litha happens Sunday, June 11, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. There’s even a new Halloween festival coming this year, courtesy of Kendall Gilchrist and Hesperia Mystic Shoppe, but you’ll have to stay tuned for that. I promise to bring you everything you need to know about Samhain Horror Night closer to October!
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