ALTOONA, Pa (WTAJ) – The African American Heritage Festival is returning to Altoona this weekend after a hiatus of eight years.

The festival started in 1994 and became an annual tradition for twenty years. Due to financial reasons, the festival was put off in 2014. Now this weekend starting Saturday, July 23, and Sunday, July 24 the festival will once again make an appearance.

Admission is free for the event. It will be held Saturday from 12 to 8 and Sunday from 12 to 4.

This year’s festival organizer, Paige Lightner, remembers her time there as a young child and described it as a family reunion. She said she saw the event as a necessity to bring back and began planning last July. They’re rebranding it as the Rebirth of the African American Heritage Festival.

“I felt like our community needed something like that, and it was something I liked growing up,” Lightner said.

Lightner said the festival would be bigger than in previous years. It’ll feature 60 vendors, gospel music, multiple bands, food trucks, and a kid’s corner. So far, Lightner said she’d received a positive response from everyone. They look forward to bringing back a beloved festival and a sense of culture.

“I think everybody’s excited cause we have a great lineup of food and music, so I think everybody’s excited for that,” Lightner said. “I haven’t had any bad responses. Everybody just seems so excited and ready. I’m excited for this weekend.”

The festival will be held mainly in the Railroaders Memorial Museum parking lot in Altoona. Lightner added that the museum asked to have the festival there as it was held there in previous years.

The Railroaders Museum gives folks an extra opportunity to learn more about African American history. Lightner describes the museum as a hidden gem, and more people will see all it has to offer.

“I want everybody to realize that we are a big community; if we all work together and learn about each other, we can grow together,” Lightner said. “There will be educational booths as well, where you can learn more about African American culture and the culture around the area.”

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Lightner said she’s honored to be starting this backup and that she wouldn’t have been able to without the help from her committee and the volunteers for the event.

“I’m honored to be a part of this. I felt like it was needed, and really happy that so many people reached out to be a part of this,” Lightner said. “I’m appreciative to the community for the response.”

It’s unclear at this time if they’ll make this an annual event.