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Groovefest mixes election-year messages with moving metro music



Counterculture celebration has become an annual tradition at Norman's Groovefest, an event that combines a human rights forum with an all-day outdoor concert.

Always a community-wide collaboration, Groovefest hasn't changed much since being founded 22 years ago. The University of Oklahoma student chapter of Amnesty International continues to spearhead the event, which takes over Andrews Park on Sunday, with "Vote to Promote Human Rights!" as this year's theme.

"Groovefest is one of the most amazing grassroots events, like you'd expect in a much larger city, not a small town like Norman," said David Slemmons, a member of the festival's board of directors.

The featured speaker is Jack Healey, a humanitarian and former Franciscan priest who heads up the nonprofit Human Rights Action Center, is credited with making Amnesty International a household name, and helped Martin Luther King Jr. organize the 1963 March on Washington D.C. 

But for those not into politics, don't worry. Music has always accompanied the message at Groovefest, and this year's celebration includes metro rock band The Gunship, acoustic performer Kevin Watson, local country rockers Mama Sweet, Tulsa reggae outfit Sam and the Stylees, and several other bands and performers.  

"The band lineup is really fine this year," Slemmons said. "Norman doesn't have enough live music venues. This is a great showcase that our musicians really look forward to."

Food vendors, craft booths and local charities will interact with Sunday's crowd and diverse stage performances " including belly dancing troupe the Desert Fire Princesses, who will perform at 2 p.m. " will keep audiences entertained throughout the day. "? Doug Hill

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