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Helen Keller Festival to welcome big-time musical artists in Tuscumbia

Helen and Anne
Helen Keller (left) "hears" Anne Sullivan by feeling the vibrations on her lips. Anne Sullivan was born one hundred years ago on April 14, 1866. As the "Teacher" of the famous Helen Keller, who was both deaf and blind, Anne was to become a source of deep inspiration to the deaf-blind and their teachers. (AP Photo)

The 44th annual Helen Keller Festival is welcoming back residents and visitors later this month.

The festival is on June 23-6 at Spring Park in Tuscumbia. estivities will begin Thursday at 6 p.m. with a parade and street party with local bands and food trucks. Other events include a car and truck show, golf tournament and marketplace showcasing arts and crafts vendors.

The events that are catching the most attention are the exclusive musical performances on Friday and Saturday night. Friday night is entitled “Stars Fell on Alabama” and will feature former American Idol contestants Tristen Gressett and Cadence Baker, both Alabama natives.

The festival’s headliner will perform on Saturday night. Arena rock band Jefferson Starship will take the stage at 8:30 p.m. The band released eight platinum records in the 1970s and ‘80s.

Chairperson Jamie Smith said when the headliner was announced on social media, the news turned a lot of heads.

“The history of Helen Keller [Festival] has always had a headliner on Saturday for country music,” Smith said. “Having Jefferson Starship is kind of a little change for us. When we released that headliner, the immediate response we got was very positive. At first, they were shocked. ‘Is this the real Jefferson Starship, or is it imitation?’”

The festival is not just musical performances. Smith said the festival honors and retraces the life of an often misinterpreted historical figure.

“Helen Keller herself is against what TikTok and our young people think nowadays,” Smith said. “If we can get the people to come in and tour her home, see the place, see the area that she was so involved in, we can take those speculations up. She did things for the deaf and blind community that showed them there are no limitations.”

Helen Keller was born in Tuscumbia in 1880. Keller is best known for her disability rights advocacy and work for the American Federation for the Blind from 1924-68. The festival welcomes visitors to Helen Keller’s home again this year with the production of “The Miracle Worker,” a drama that depicts her early life. The drama is in its 56th year.

Thursday and Sunday night events are free. Friday and Saturday events require a $5 admission to cover artist fees. Arts and crafts vendors are open all four days outside the park free of charge.

For more information on event scheduling, parking and what to bring, visit helenkellerfestival.com.

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