After Thursday night’s gratifying turnout at the Festival of United Cultures, we won’t see an immediate end to all racial dissension in Huntsville and Walker County. Prejudice won’t just go away; condescension won’t simply disappear.

Inequality will continue to exist. So what did it all accomplish, this wonderful evening of friendship and harmony that filled the massive Walker County Fairgrounds building to overflow capacity? What was the point of it all? To my thinking, the festival achieved many things, but above all else it now serves as a testament to how far our community has come in the past half century. The clear message coming from Thursday night was that a lot of good people truly care about racial harmony — and they’re willing to stand up and do whatever they can to demonstrate their commitment.

Up to 1,500 (according to an estimate by County Judge Danny Pierce) townspeople — black, white, brown, red and yellow — sat, ate and laughed together, applauded each other’s cultural entertainment and came away with a newfound or renewed respect for one another. It was an inspiring thing to see, and it’ll undoubtedly be the foundation for the growth of racial harmony for years to come. As groups and individuals chip away at the eroding color barrier in coming years, they’ll always know that they’re joined by many others in what they’re striving to accomplish.

According to state Rep. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), who was in attendance with her family, Huntsville is one of the few cities its size in Texas that could have pulled off such an evening; indeed, our town is undoubtedly one of very few with the audacity to even try.

It was important that the community make a powerful statement, and that’s exactly what it did. I’ve never been prouder to call this place home...

THE AUDIENCE got a little more than it bargained for Tuesday night when the Republican Party of Walker County hosted a forum at the county courthouse for its candidates in the March 7 primary election. About halfway through the evening’s proceedings, Constable Gene Bartee interrupted County Commissioner Tim Paulsel, who was in the midst of answering a question, to order the third floor room evacuated.

“Everyone please remain calm,” said Bartee. “There’s a small fire downstairs.”

By the time the group filed downstairs, an assemblage of fire trucks, ambulances and police cars had arrived; thick smoke was pouring out of a first floor restroom. An inspection revealed the problem was emanating from a faulty exhaust fan, and the firefighters quickly took care of the still minor problem. Within 15 or 20 minutes the members of the audience — or what was left of it after about half went home — once again took their seats.

Several times over the past 150 years, the county courthouse has burned down in that spot, and the chilling thought remains that if the voters forum hadn’t been taking place at that time — when the building is normally vacant — it might have happened again.

Paulsel was heard to say something about all the “hot air” coming from the courtroom, and county Republican chairman Russell Martinez told someone that, while they had been hoping for some “heated” debate, this wasn’t what they had in mind...

THOSE OF YOU who attended the superb U.S. Navy Band concert a few years ago at Johnson Coliseum on the SHSU campus will be interested to know that the Air Force Band will be performing at that same venue next month.

To be sponsored by The Huntsville Item and the university, the Air Force Concert Band and the Singing Sergeants will perform at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 23. It’ll be absolutely free to the first 2,000 people to get a ticket.

The Navy Band played to an audience of more than 2,000, so interested attendees should get their tickets as soon as possible. They’ll be available only at the Item office sometime in the next week or so.

If you want to get a jump on everyone else, send us a self-addressed stamped envelope and we’ll mail you up to four tickets as soon as they arrive. Send your request, along with how many tickets you want, to: The Huntsville Item, Attn. USAF Band Concert, P.O. Box 539, Huntsville, TX 77342.

This is the same band that has played at presidential inaugurations, state funerals and numerous high-profile performances over the years. You won’t want to miss this concert, so get your hands on those tickets right away!

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