July 01, 2009

Nuwaubians' annual festival gets under way

Group's attorney planning appeal to get members back on voter rolls
The Macon Telegraph,
June 24, 2000
By Rob Peecher

EATONTON - The United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors' annual festival began Friday, and at least a portion of the festival will involve political activities.This is the second year in a row that the annual festival to honor Malachi York, referred to in Nuwaubian literature as the group's "supreme grand master," comes in the middle of the group's ongoing legal battle with county officials.Last year, buildings on the 476-acre village west of Eatonton were padlocked as members held their celebrations outside in the heat and rain. This year, the festivities will be put on hold at least twice by political activities. With the continuation of hearings by the county Board of Registrars, which have resulted in 36 members of the group being purged from the voter rolls of Putnam County, the Nuwaubians are planning activities to protest what they term discrimination and profiling.A program for the 12-day festival promises fishing tournaments and fish fries, puppet shows and family movies, volleyball tournaments and a beach party, with no mention of political activities.But a Nuwaubian Web site encourages members to attend the annual summer convention of the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials in Savannah today. And a rally has been scheduled from 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday on the lawn of the Putnam County Courthouse.The Putnam County Sheriff's Office and volunteer fire department got an unexpected invitation Friday afternoon to the festival when a car fire spread in a grass field the Nuwaubians were using as a parking lot, according to Sheriff Howard Sills."They were parking vehicles in the grass, as high as six inches and completely dry," Sills said. "A lady pulled up, and as she was getting out of the car, they noticed smoke started coming out from under the hood. They were trying to put it out with sand, but it spread to the next car. They quickly moved some other cars out of the way, but the fire burned up eight cars completely."The cause of the fire had not been determined Friday afternoon, but Sills said he suspects the fire started when the heat of the car's engine came into contact with the grass.In past years, motels in Milledgeville were booked nearly full with Nuwaubians attending the annual festival. This year, motel managers in Eatonton and Milledgeville reported only a handful of Nuwaubian guests. "If they're doing it, they're not doing it with us," said Brad Holloway, sales manager of the Milledgeville Holiday Inn.Holloway said that, last year, the hotel was nearly completely booked with people attending the "York family reunion."At the Comfort Inn in Milledgeville, manager and owner Nick Patel said last year he had 10 to 15 rooms booked by Nuwaubians coming from England. This year, he has about half that many.Another Milledgeville motel manager said the 51 rooms in her motel have been filled with Nuwaubians in previous years, but this year there are only 10 booked by Nuwaubians.The program for the week's festival promises a carnival, entertainment, fireworks and a parade. There also are times set aside for prayers, teaching and ceremonies.

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