NJPAC Kwanzaa Family Festival Credit: NJPAC photo

Thousands are expected to gather on the campus of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) on December 17 as the venue’s annual Kwanzaa Family Festival returns as an in-person celebration. The festival has been held at NJPAC for more than a decade, and activates the Arts Center’s entire campus during one of its busiest holiday weekends.
 
“We are so excited to welcome our whole community back to this so-much-loved celebration, one of the longest-running Arts Center traditions,” said Eyesha Marable, NJPAC’s Assistant Vice President of Community Engagement. “It’s something we’ve been looking forward to over the past two years. Virtual events are great, but there’s nothing like seeing this whole building filled with families, children and elders enjoying the season.”
 
Free performances will be held every hour in the Arts Center’s Prudential Hall Lobby from 10AM to 10PMFree family activities including dance and drumming classes, face painting, storytelling, child-friendly arts and crafts workshops, plus a coat and toy give-away for the children of the community, will be held throughout NJPAC’s indoor campus from 10AM to 2PM. Each event and activity embodies one of the seven principles of Kwanzaa, a holiday dedicated to celebrating African-American culture and community.
 
A Kwanaa candle-lighting ceremony and a Vibunzi — a tradition of honoring young people with an ear of corn (or in this case, a slice of cornbread) to represent the hope for the future they bring — will be a highlight of the day’s celebration.
 
In addition, the Arts Center’s annual Kwanzaa Artisan Marketplace featuring local crafters, artists and merchants, will fill both the Prudential Lobby and the hallways outside Prudential Hall’s First and Second tier entrances all weekend. 
 
The Marketplace will be open throughout the festival and during Saturday’s two performances of NJPAC’s own genre-blending holiday production, The Hip Hop Nutcracker. The Marketplace will also be open on Friday, December 16, from 7 to 11PM, before and after a performance by Cuban salsa stars Willy Chirino and Leoni Torres, and on Sunday, December 18 from 2 to 6PM, before and after The State Ballet Theatre of Ukraine’s performance of the traditional holiday ballet, The Nutcracker
 
The Festival is made possible by a generous  endowment gift from Lee and Toby Cooperman. The Festival is also sponsored by ADP and Whole Foods. Whole Foods will also provide water, cornbread, and fruits and vegetables for the Vibunzi.
 
For the first time, the Kwanzaa Festival is presented in collaboration with a collective of the city’s other anchor cultural institutions including the Newark Museum of Art, Newark Arts, Newark Symphony Hall, and the Newark Public Library, as well as in partnership with the City of Newark
 
Registration for the Family Festival opens at 9AM in person, and activities continue from 10AM to 2PM; see below for the full schedule. Families can also register in advance on NJPAC’s website or through this registration form.

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