One banana, two bananas …
Shonna McDaniels and the National Academic Youth Corps
William Land Park4000 S. Land Park Dr.
Sacramento, CA 95822
What do you do in a down economy when there isn’t enough money to fund after-school art and summer programs for children in the region?
If you’re Shonna McDaniels or a member of the National Academic Youth Corps, you put on a festival.
A banana festival, to be more specific.
For the Corps’ second annual festival, its members chose the theme “Celebrating Community, Culture and Health!” The two-day event, held this weekend William Land Park, features, food, entertainment and a variety of vendors and nonprofit organizations that showcase information about the organization and an array of wares.
The National Academic Youth Corps is a nonprofit whose mission is to educate and engage kids in activities that highlight and promote the arts, cultural diversity, healthy lifestyles and social awareness.
McDaniels recently spoke to the SN&R about funding, community and the art of celebrating culture with some bright-yellow tasty goodness.
Why did you choose bananas as your festival theme dish?
When we decided to do a festival, we looked around and saw that many of the other food themes were already taken. You have your garlic festival, asparagus festival, strawberry festival, artichoke festival, chocolate festival, sweet potato festival, but bananas was one of the food themes we didn’t see prominent in any of the California festivals. Plus with our festival celebrating the cultures of Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and the Americas, which have used the bananas as a traditional source of food, art and cultural customs, it seemed like a perfect fit.
So, how much banana food can I eat?
We have such a wide variety of dishes and deserts made from bananas, including banana pudding, fritters, banana-mango salsa, banana cupcakes, taffy, banana dogs, fried plantains, soup, popcorn, smoothies, tamales, chocolate-covered bananas, and even banana ice cream from Gunther’s Ice Cream. Many of these dishes come from recipes from around the world.
And what can I do for fun?
We have plenty of entertainment, and especially for the children. There’s a place for them to do arts and crafts, and a bounce tent. There will be a banana-split-eating contest, carnival-style games, children and adults’ limbo contest, banana storytelling. We have a lot of different performers, including stunt bikes and magic shows. We have Disc Dogs of Golden Gate doing dog tricks. We also have a youth art exhibit, and there will be a free books giveaway. There will be a variety of cultural dances and performances, including Sinag-Tala, a Filipino dance group, Samba da Terra, a Brazilian samba group, Yami Lee and Kong Yang, Million Butterflies and Halo.
There is also the Umoja African dance and Tina B. and the [Sacramento] Soul Line Dancers, as well as SoPhresh break-dancers. Rounding out the whole day will be rock, jazz, and blues bands, old-school music and a fashion show. We will also have a lot of local artist works on display headed by the Kuumba Collective Art Gallery, as well as a photo exhibit.
We’re trying to expose the children and their families to the widest range of different cultures as possible.
I hear there is a banana-cooking contest?
We’re having a chef’s cook-off competition, which was very popular last year at our first banana festival. It entails having to compete live with a mystery banana item. There will also be a Little Miss & Mr. Banana contest, and to make more people aware of environmental concerns, there will be a Go Green With Compost demonstration.
Where do proceeds raised at the Banana Festival go?
First, let me say that the whole event is 100 percent produced by volunteers [and] underwritten by private donations, sponsors, grants and vendors. Proceeds will benefit the National Academic Youth Corps, a local 501[(c)(3)], and other nonprofit organizations. … We will be able to buy materials and art supplies for arts and crafts, and they will be shared with many of the other nonprofits who also promote art education in the area.
Where exactly will the festival be located?
We are going to be at [William Land Park] near Freeport Boulevard and Sutterville Road. We want people to come out, bring their families and enjoy a day filled with plenty of activities, entertainment, health information and various displays and vendors to round out the day.