Thursday, May 31, 2012

Adding Sugar to the Republican List of No-Nos

There will be “bloody murder!” screams of “Nanny State!” over this and the irony is that it took a conservative and a Republican—once again—to inject the government smack into the middle of our choices.

According to the NYTimes this morning, “New York City plans to enact a far-reaching ban on the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks at restaurants, movie theaters and street carts, in the most ambitious effort yet by the administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to combat rising obesity.

“The proposed ban would affect virtually the entire menu of popular sugary drinks found in delis, fast-food franchises and even sports arenas, from energy drinks to pre-sweetened iced teas. The sale of any cup or bottle of sweetened drink larger than 16 fluid ounces — about the size of a medium coffee, and smaller than a common soda bottle — would be prohibited under the first-in-the-nation plan, which could take effect as soon as next March.”

I can already hear the cries of “what’s next?” Will it be a beef ban (not with that tobacco-level lobby), control of coffee consumption, booze (nope, tried that), discouraging the use of white flour and white sugar, trucking fresh foods across the country? There’s all kinds of potential here and some of it, I have no problem with. Since I don’t do refined sugar and you shouldn’t, either, I say, "go get ‘em’, Bloomberg.”

Of course, the Repubs have been going after our individual freedoms with the fierceness of a pissed off Tazmanian Devil. Consider, for example, all the reproductive functions middle-aged white Repubs believe they should control for women, after patting them on the head and calling them "poor dears." How about who sleeps with whom and who can marry. The list is long and now it’s sweet.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Sex Offender Laws: Another Sign of Our Own Cowardice

The NYTimes this morning has yet another sterling example of what a nation of irresponsible, hovering cowards we are becoming.

In its story about crackdowns on sex offenders across the nation, we are told that localities are passing "feel good" ordinances that remove citizenship rights from people convicted of crimes as serious as peeing in a park 25 years ago. That is a sex crime by definition ("public exposure"), it never goes away, and our citizens want to throw these pervs in the clank and toss away the key. Since the Constitution won't allow that, we simply forbid them to drop off their kids at school or take them to Little League games, fish from the local pier, go to the library or even work in some communities.

"Sex crime" is a broad term, so broad in fact that it is often misleading and sometimes a bald-assed lie. Localities have acted with a little more sense in stripping the rights from people who have already paid society for their crimes, but others haven't. Those localities equate a love affair between a 17-year-old and a 16-year-old that includes sex (and my guess is a hell of a lot of them do) with raping a three-year-old. "Sex crime." It's not pretty, even when it is.

Love between consenting teenagers is often a highlight of sweet emotion for many of us. But these paranoid parents who want the government to watch their kids, taking the potential blame burden from them, make me ill. If you take your kids to the park or the pool and don't watch them, whose fault is it if something bad happens?

According to investigative reporter Diane Diamond, "The sexual abuse of kids doesn’t usually come from outside their circle and murder is extremely rare ... Most often the perpetrator is a relative, a family friend or a trusted authority figure," and not likely a guy relieving himself on an oak tree in the park after his second beer at a company picnic or a woman who is sunbathing nude in her backyard.

So much of what is provocative and even "porn" is a matter of personal belief. I once had a woman give me a wonderful painting (on an animal skin) of a native Colombian, smoking a pipe and posing bare-breasted--which is how she lived her life--because it was "pornography." The only pornographic element was the attitude of the woman who gave me the painting.  She'd love these new sex crime laws.

Overzealous state legislators introduced more than 1,500 bills dealing with sex offenses during a recent year and 275 were passed. We're not even going into local ordinances here because the numbers aren't available. But they must be huge.

No wonder al-Qaeda laughs at us when all it has to do is threaten in order to send us into a blind, irrational panic and change a nation of eagles into one of chickens.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Composition of the Modern Republican

This is not a Republican. It is too complex. An amoeba, maybe.
I just read that the average person has 46 chromosomes, two fewer than a potato. Republicans have 32.

Bob Slaughter, Ambassador for D-Day, Dies

Bob Slaughter (left) with Bill Clinton, one of the presidents he met late in life.
The young soldier.
Just learned a few minutes ago that Bob Slaughter died at Roanoke Memorial today. Bob was instrumental in helping get the D-Day Memorial in Bedford built and in his late life he became something more than the humble printer he was for most of his working life. He was an ambassador for one of the most important events in American history, the invasion of Europe. He was 87.

Bot met presidents and potentates as the 6-feet-5-inches former grunt who charged the beaches at Normandy in 1944, breaking into Europe and defeating the Nazis months later. He was in the initial wave, the one that was more often than not shot to pieces. He was a big target, but as one of the 29th Infantry, he was tough, brave, scared half to death and confused, but hell-bent on getting that beach secured.

I worked with Bob for a number of years at the local daily in Roanoke where I was a sports writer/features writer and he a shop foreman in the composing (which no longer exists). It was Bob's job to make sure the paper was properly put together by the typesetters and the layout guys, then sent to plate-making so those plates could go on the press and bring you a newspaper. He was good at it, a good manager with a firm and fair manner.

Bob Slaughter at home.
Bob was not one of those combat veterans who avoided conversation about the most significant event of their lives. He loved talking about the war, about combat, about battle and about friends and foes. He once told me that the first time he ever saw a jet airplane--the ME 262 that the Nazis built--he and the rest of the guys in his squad were so terrified by the sound that they threw down their guns and ran.

Bob never had any compunction about giving you the facts and letting you figure out for yourself if these guys were heroes and in that, he became a hero to me. Most people are not heroes. Most soldiers are just trying stay alive and keep their friends alive. They don't think about medals and heroism and Bob pointed this up over and over with his stories of people being people in times of stress.

He was a good man and a good representative for what is essentially human folly. He understood what war was and for that I applaud his memory.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Photo of the Day: Maddie and Pampa Go to the Pool

Maddie's form is nearly perfect on this cannonball, a dive every kid must master if she is to compete in life.
Maddie's can opener is a little bent.
Maddie comes up for air.
Maddie dives in.
Madeline and I went out to the pool at Hunting Hills today for a little late afternoon relief and she performed some of what she's learning for me. Pretty good, I'd say.

Honoring My Heroes on Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day, a day each year that I spend praying for those lost in the futility of protesting war and trying to change our national character from that of a country leaping into unnecessary wars to one of resisting war until there is no other choice.

The heroes in my scenario are those who have fought and died to bring the troops home alive or to avoid sending them in the first place. These are the people who fight with protest signs, letters to the editor, sit-ins, passive resistance, non-violent protest and on occasion blowing up an ROTC building or the offices of a war-profiteer when nothing else will work.

War is almost always optional, greed-inspired, stupid and unnecessary. We have been fighting two of them simultaneously for 10 years because our leaders did what American leaders always do. They didn't even consider options to Afghanistan and Iraq. We've fought in Korea, Vietnam, Granada, Bosnia and a dozen other places since World War II, not because we had to, but because we chose to.

We have decimated generation after generation of teenagers and 20-somethings, kids who have not even had a chance yet to feel anything of life before they lose it or have it so devastatingly altered that is of little use to them any longer. They come home so physically and mentally damaged that they can't find work, their marriages become torments for all involved and they are often in deep despair for years. We don't need to be doing that and those who fight against it are my heroes.

Surprise of the Movie Season, If You're Old Enought for It

John Madden's "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" is not just the surprise of the warm weather movie season, it's the most entertaining picture I've seen in 2012.

And why not? It's chock full of splendid older actors (Judy Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton, Celia Imre and Ronald Pickup) and a sterling screenwriter, Ole Parker from Deborah Maggach's novel.

To its everlasting credit, the cinematography in this move about a group of English old people moving to India for a variety of reasons, owes nothing at all to MTV. Not a frame. It is shot intelligently, lovingly and with the story--and not the cinematographer's ego--in mind. Gritty, colorful, noisy, splendid India is on full display and the story has the right feel.

This group of seven people who've moved out of the workforce and into a broken down--read: cheap--ancient hotel in India, one being renovated by an enthusiastic young India. They are thrown together in an accidental group, one that knows nothing of their backgrounds, so they have little in common at the start, save for their advancing age. This is a movie based on story and character, one that will stick to your ribs, make you smile and cry, cringe get angry. It will not leave you with nothing.

The characters are full, rich and definitive in this ensemble case that features a case full of Academy Awards. Perhaps the best performance of this fine group is that of Penelope Wilton, the wife of a man who seems to have lost their life savings and who is simply miserable with her circumstance, with anything Indian, with the hotel, the heat, being far from England, all of it. And she makes everybody around her equally miserable.

Strongly recommended. Unless you're under 40. You have plenty of alternate choices if you're not old enough.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Photo(s) of the Day: Festival in the Park, Day I

Carl Jara puts the finishing touches on a sand sculpture (it was amazing) at Festival.
Grandgirl Maddie with her recorder in a field of lawn art (love that lawn art!).
Maddie clobbers her mama, Kara, with a wet sponge at Viking booth.
And then it was Madeline's turn. (She didn't hate it.)
Editor Pampa and Jeff Rigdon give Maddie a ride on the "whale."
College student Meg Parker hoops it up.
The Country Kickers of Covington did one clog to "Amazing Grace."
Randolph Walker (who writes for FRONT) , Miriam McConnell sing to the crowd (and they were good!).
A bit of ballet for the cultural elite sitting on the ground.
BMX Bikers led to a lot of gasps from the crowd with stunts like this.
Your Favorite Editor ate this: sugar free, by god!
Your Favorite Editor's favorite view of the day (indulge me; I'm old).
Roanoke's Festival in the Park is underway in downtown Roanoke and I was down earlier with Christina and my buddy Madeline, who had a grand time, as you can see from the above. The food was good and as my buddy Ed Walker said, "There's so much energy this year." He and his sons had just been watching the BMX bicycle exhibition and there was, indeed, excitement with that and a lot more that was going on--including some of us who simply enjoyed the views (see above).

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Quote of the Day: What Could Save Newspapers*

"Times are certainly far tougher today than they used to be for newspapers. Circulation nationally will continue to slip and in some cases plunge. But American papers have only failed when one or more of the following factors was present: (1) The town or city had two or more competing dailies; (2) the paper lost its position as the primary source of information important to its readers or (3) the town or city did not have a pervasive self-identity. We don’t face those problems."

--Warren Buffett, whose Berkshire Hathaway this week bought  a group of newspapers that includes a number in Virginia. Story here.

(In Roanoke, I think No. 2 and No. 3 are strongly in play. Management and morale could be better, too.)

(* This, of course, assumes there is some need to save newspapers, which are simply one of many delivery systems for news and, decreasingly, advertising.)


Polling Data: Here's Where the Republicans are Losing Backers

If you want a clear, concise and brief look at just how far apart Democrats and Republicans (and, to the Repubs' consternation, Independents) are, take a look at this story and charts in the New York Times today. It's simply astonishing--though anybody who's followed politics for the past decade or so could hardly be surprised.

The gaps are wide everywhere. Independents' positions are almost always--in this survey anyway--far closer to those of the Democrats than to the Republicans and since Independents swing elections on the national level, Republicans have to feel some sense of anxiety.

Just look at these few examples:
  • Sixty percent of Republicans accept divorce, while 69 percent of Dems do (Independents are more liberal than both at 71 percent).
  • Sex between the unmarried is accepted by 42 percent of Repubs and 66 percent of Dems.
  • Doctor-assisted suicide gets 33 percent Repub acceptance and 49 percent from Democrats.
  • Dems accept birth control by a slight margin.
  • Stem cell research gets 72 percent Dem acceptance, 44 percent from the Repubs.
  • 66 percent of Dems are OK with gay relationships, while Repubs accept at a level of 36 percent.
  • 35 percent of Repubs say it's fine to have a baby outside marriage, while Dems accept it at a rate of 64 percent.
  • Dems accept abortion at 52 percent (which is surprisingly low) and Repubs at 22 percent. Independents accept at a level of 40 percent--which does not bode well for Dems since this is a huge wedge issue.
  • Dems accept porno at a rate of 38 percent (and this is one of the largest industries in America so somebody's "accepting" it, including both parties in congress where the bribe money flows). Repubs are accepting at a rate of 21 percent. 
  • Repubs approve of the death penalty 73 percent of the time (this is the "pro-life" party) and Dems 42 percent. The surprise here is that Independents approve 62 percent of the time. 
  • Republicans are fine with buying fur 71 percent of the time and Dems are at 55 percent, same as Indys.

The Times poll shows that Repubs have the advantage among religious conservatives (60 percent to 9 percent), military people and small business owners, the latter two groups only slightly. Dems lead among retirees, stay-at-home mothers, "you and your family" (whatever that means), the middle class, working women, young adults, Hispanics and gays.

I don't know how many people are in those various groups, but the Dems have far more groups in their corner and my guess is the biggest Repub contingent--religious conservatives--is probably less than 30 percent of the population.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Overnight Sensations Recruiting Cast for July Productions

Todd Ristau

It's coming up on time for Overnight Sensations, Todd Ristau's unusual theater presentation that features a group of writers, actors and directors who will put on several plays--all written, rehearsed and produced within 24 hours. This will take place on the weekend of July 6 and 7.

My Grandgirl Madeline and I will be in the cast and so will Maddie's Auntie Grandma Christina.

Here's what Todd has to say:

Friday night at 7:30 there will be a reception to meet all the actors, directors, and playwrights and then the shows are rehearsed on Saturday, with the curtain going up at 8PM. The entire event is free to the public.

The pre-selected casts of 4-6 actors include performers of all age and experience ranges, including some local business leaders, celebrities, and patrons of the arts. It isn't about being a great actor, but about having a great passion for local theatre and new plays.

I created the first Overnight Sensations event for Mill Mountain Theatre while working as the Underground Roanoke Producer in 2007. The idea is simple: at 8 p.m. we take six playwrights and pair them with six directors, give them a bunch of random writing prompts and send them off to write six ten-minute plays. At 8 o'clock the next morning the directors read the scripts over coffee and a roll, suggest changes, and then we print the scripts in time for the actors to show up at 11 a.m.  Around noon, the six plays rehearse until 5 p.m. when we do a cue to cue. The audience arrives at 7 p.m. and at 8 the lights go down and the show starts.

After the show we adjourn to a local eatery to continue the conversation.

It has proven a great way to get people involved, increase awareness of everything that goes into mounting a play, and broaden the appreciation for new plays, playwrights, and area theaters. We don't charge, but we do ask for donations to help support Mill Mountain Theatre and the fund at Hollins for the production of new plays written by our student playwrights--like this year's premier of Samantha Macher's "The Arctic Circle" at Mill Mountain Theatre, which then went to New York and is now getting published.

Due to renovations at Center in the Square, this year's Overnight Sensations will be on the main stage of the Hollins University Theatre.

This year's writers are Dwayne Yancey, Carl Hancock Rux, and several of Hollins ' MFA playwrights.  Directors include a Hollins faculty member and a student, Miriam Frazier, Drew Dowdy, Charlie Boswell and Kris Laguzza.

If you're interested in talking to Todd about this, e-mail him at

(Photo: Annaliese Moyer.)

Judy Ayyildiz's New Book International Award Finalist

Judy Ayyildiz
Roanoker Judy Ayyildiz's book Forty Thorns (Remzi Book House) has been named a finalist in the historical fiction category of the 2012 International Book Awards.

Let me mention that Judy is one of the really good and giving people around. Writers should deeply appreciate everything about her, including her talent, but especially her goodness.

There will be a review of the book in the July edition of FRONT.

The list of finalists is found here.

Republicans: The Party of Civil Rights (Not!)

Birmingham, 1963.
New York Magazine's Jonathan Chait has a marvelous piece (here) debunking a National Review cover story that rewrites the history of the modern Republican Party and its problem with race. He calls Kevin Williamson's story a "fantasy" and sets about deconstructing the rationale (or irrationality) behind it.

It's a solid piece of reasoning and history and it points up what Republicans do best: when they're proved wrong, they simply rewrite history. Simple as that.


WVTF Expands to NRV Bureau, Hires Top Reporter

When I went by the WVTF studio recently to record one of those periodic essays I write for the Public Radio station in Roanoke, news director Connie Stevens excitedly told me about some significant changes that were coming, including the addition of a "big time" reporter.

Today, the station announced those changes and they are, indeed, major. Here's the press release:

WVTF Public Radio and RADIO IQ has opened a New River Valley news bureau and veteran journalist Robbie Harris has been hired as New River Valley bureau chief. Harris is the former news director of WBEZ Chicago Public Radio and WHYY Public Radio in Philadelphia where she led award-winning news teams and creative projects.

She has also worked in public and commercial television, as well as print journalism. In 2004, she co-founded Lucid Dream Productions where she worked as writer, editor, producer, and communications consultant.

Harris has won numerous Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists awards. Her work has also been the recipient of a Peabody Award and she won a Public Radio News Directors Incorporated award for best documentary for a six-hour radio re-creation of Dec. 7, 1941, called “A Pearl Harbor Remembrance.”

Harris says, “The station's mission and goals, its approach to covering the region and its commitment to excellence are what attract me here; specifically, its creation of a new bureau based in Blacksburg, which brings the station and listeners closer. Local coverage is vital to a region, not only to the people who live here, but also for people in other parts of the state and beyond. The new bureau is an opportunity to focus on, and highlight the New River Valley and the surrounding area. I feel extremely fortunate to be part of that effor.”

Harris graduated with a bachelor's degree from Rutgers University and a master's degree from the University of Pennsylvania.

WVTF Public Radio and RADIO IQ's General Manager Glenn Gleixner says, “Public radio journalism is more important today than ever before. As other media outlets decrease the size and scope of their newsrooms, public radio has taken on the responsibility of filling the void left by these shrinking commitments. This is especially true for local, regional, and state reporting. Harris, an award winning and highly respected reporter, will add an important layer of information and knowledge for the station’s large and growing constituency.”

WVTF has a weekly audience of approximately 160,000 listeners and the signal covers more than 50 percent of Virginia’s land mass. The Blacksburg bureau chief will be the fifth full time news person, in addition to 10 part-time and stringer reporters.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Photo(s) of the Day: Memorial Bridge as It Has Rarely Been Seen

Before the opening of the new stretch of greenway in Roanoke last week, few Roanokers were given the opportunity to see the underside of one of Roanoke's most beautiful structures, Memorial Bridge in Raleigh Court.

This bridge is a beast, built in about 1932 and using enough concrete to construct a skyscraper. It is huge, elegant, powerful and a real looker. Here is the underside of the bridge, which is just as lovely in its way as is the top and sides.

A Good Suggestion: Move Local Elections to November

My buddy Valerie Garner is reporting that RoanokeCity Councilman Bill Bestpitch has recommended that moving city voting from May to November be considered and he has a valid point.

Voting in November makes the sense because it will bring more voters into the process. The hardcore people who vote in the May elections (and it's what, 5 percent of the eligibles?) will be supplemented by people who only vote in big elections and it will make a difference in the quality of candidates and the quality of the message. 

I don't believe the races or the coverage of them will be diluted; quite the contrary, the local election will be amplified. The Republicans, of course, will oppose anything that will bring out more voters and this will. But I don't think there is a Republican on council ... in name anyway.

Photo of the Day: Oh, Deer!

There are four deer in this photo at the entrance of the new Roanoke greenway extension off the Richardson Wayland parking lot. You see two of them obviously on the right and you can catch the tail end of two others entering the woods on the left. Two more--all does, all about a few months old--had already passed from sight. I took this at about 4:10 p.m. today. Cool, huh? Right, smack in the middle of a city of nearly 100,000. Don't you love Roanoke?

State Fair of Virginia Sold for $5.35 Million

(UPDATE: This comes from today's Richmond Times-Dispatch: The State Fair of Virginia’s intellectual and physical property was sold at auction today for $5.35 million. Motley’s Auction & Realty Group conducted the auction, to be held at the Meadow Event Park, home to the state fair since 2009. The buyer was not immediately identified. The Meadow Event Park in Caroline County was sold after SFVA Inc., the nonprofit that put on the annual fair, defaulted last year on about $75 million in loans. SFVA filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in December, but converted the case to a Chapter 7 liquidation in March.)

Looks like the State Fair of Virginia will get a reprieve. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that a deal has been made that will allow the fair, which is more than 100 years old, to continue to operate and even to continue giving scholarships.

A bankruptcy hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, but that may not go on. SFVA Inc. is the owner that filed for Chapter 11 reorganization after defaulting on $75.6 million in loans, then converted to more serious Chapter 7.

The fair is held on 360 acres at Meadow Event Park in Carolina County (near Richmond) and writing a story on it was one of the last assignments I had as a feature writer at the local daily in Roanoke in 1981 before being fired. If a buyer can be found, that purchaser could buy the whole fair and have enough capital in place to have the scheduled September fair, the T-D says. The court needs to approve any deal.

I'm rooting for the fair. It's a piece of honest-to-god Americana we need to keep.

(Photo: Richmond Times Dispatch)

Limbaugh's Ratings Taking a Big Hit

Those who've been stubbornly defending talk show host Rush Limbaugh against the organized boycott of his sponsors will take no heart in the latest news that his Arbitron ratings are in the toilet in a number of major markets. Politico reports:

"The conservative radio host's ratings fell 27 percent in the key 25-54 demo in New York City, 31 percent in Houston-Galveston, 40 percent in Seattle-Tacoma, and 35 percent in Jacksonville, according to a selection of the March 29-April 25 Arbitron ratings provided by an industry source." A 27 percent drop in Roanoke would be a bump on an elephant's butt. A 27 percent drop in the Big Apple is the elephant.

Limbaugh, who reportedly has lost millions since calling a young woman a "slut," cannot be happy about this. And he likely won't ignore it, either. The only way to get to this guy is through his back pocket and it appears that's working.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Joke of the Day: The Perfect Blind Date for Bob Marshall

Jenna Talackova
The news report tells us that 23-year-old Jenna Talackova finished among the final dozen contestants--of 61--in the Miss Universe Canada pageant yesterday and thus became the first transgender person ever to compete in that event.

What next? How about a date with Virginia Del. Bob Marshall, the nincompoop who sponsored the blocking of Virginia's first openly-gay judge and is quoted today as saying on national television that "sodomy is not a civil right." Maybe the 6-foot-1 and quite beautiful Jenna could teach him a thing or two about relationships.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

One More Pix: Editor at Work

My pal Ann Stinnett took this photo of me (with the red baseball cap) talking to Pearlie Mae Fu, who is flanked by my grandgirl Madeline (left) and Maddie's buddy Grace St. Clair. I have no idea why I was taking notes. I know everybody in the vicinity, so I wasn't getting names. Look kinda studious, don't I? Heh, heh, heh ...

Roanoke's Finest Moment: The Parade of Nations

Polish girls (from left) Alexis Misztalski, Kate and Claire Ocalek. Poland was the select country this year.
Maya Kabariya and sisters Sarada, Mamta and Sufata Wagley photograph themselves.
Sisters Alessandra and Isabella Paras of Phillippines.
English queen Pam Robinson.
Oz Smith, Australian dude.
Ukranian Oleh Skrypczak.
Jerry Wu of China.
Anna Smith, Moneisha Hughes represent France.
Lu Kareng, Myanmar (formerly Burma).
Michelle Bolton of Belize (no, not Ireland).
Viking ruffians prepare for battle.
Fatuma Mohamed of Kenya.
Viking Madeline Smith (my grandgirl), parade queen Pearlie Mae Fu and Viking Grace St. Clair in the lead rickshaw.
My favorite face, Jebet Kibogy of Kenya
Pearlie Mae Fu ready to kick off festivities.
Everybody's favorite, River Laker of England.
The British task force.
Jackie Grant shoots her kids, Teketel and Aklilu of Ethopia.
Roanoke artist Eric Fitzpatrick and his mango.
Viking Sam Mullins.
Youngsters lead German contingent.
Koreans follow their leader and their flag.
Korean percussion section.
Colorful Vanessa Haskins of Kenya.
Jeff Rigdon pulls Pearl, Madeline and Grace.
The Poles danced throughout the parade.
The Polish flag flutters proudly.
Pole Stasia and Ukranian husband Oleh Skrypczak.
Maddie and Grace find a sponsor to hug.
Roanoke was dubbed "Festival City" many years ago and there is none better than the annual Local Colors festival and parade downtown. It was held today and thousands of people showed up to see 100 nations represented, many in colorful garb.

Poland was this year's featured nation and it had a large contingent. The nation's groups ranged from large to Belize's single entry, pretty redhead Michelle Belton, who looks more like an Irish lass with those flowing red locks.

This is Pearl Fu's baby, growing from a small gathering just a few years ago to a major crowd-pleaser and a festival that gives Roanoke a welcoming aura of diversity. This is my favorite of all the festivals because of its joy, its color and its meaning. You rarely see an unsmiling face at Local Colors.