Long Reach Village—the largest and one of the oldest villages in Columbia, Maryland—will celebrate 50 years next Friday.
“Columbia is a little over 50 years old itself,” says Robert Neal Marshall, executive director of the Columbia Festival of the Arts, which means this village goes back to its roots.
Including the communities of Jeffers Hill, Kendall Ridge, Locust Park and Phelps Luck, it is home to more than 15,000 residents. It also houses community and arts organizations, merchants and open space for community recreation, as well as neighborhood gathering spaces and senior resources, to name a few.
Columbia Festival of the Arts—which is now in its 35th year—organized the celebration in partnership with Howard County Government, with support from the Columbia Association.
The free bash will be the first live event Columbia Festival of the Arts has put on in about two years.
“People are hungry for that,” Marshall says, adding that he’s grateful it will also support musicians and tech crews who have been out of work during the pandemic.
Held in the Long Reach Village Center on Friday, Oct. 15, from 5-9 p.m. and Saturday, Oct. 16, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., the event will feature an arts and crafts show and sale with more than 20 artists, local food trucks, family crafts and activities and live music.
Marshall jokes that his events are usually for 20,000 people so “this is sort of like a little dress rehearsal for us” by comparison. But that means his organization is well equipped to get big entertainment fitting for the occasion.
One will be Pittsburgh-based Squonk—fresh off an engagement at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York—with its spectacle “Hand to Hand,” boasting two hands as large as houses with original music, design and staging.
Others include internationally renowned Vanessa Collier, a multi-instrumentalist who weaves together funk, soul, rock and blues who grew up in Columbia, and international acts such as LADAMA, a Latin alternative foursome singing in English, Spanish and Portuguese.
It was important to bring in acts that represented the diversity in Long Reach, Marshall says.
Howard County is now a majority-minority county, adds county executive Calvin Ball, “and the village of Long Reach is the largest and one of the most diverse villages in Columbia.”
“Columbia itself is so unique with this community” in that it’s very welcoming, Marshall says.
“I’m the first openly-LGBT director for the Columbia Festival of the Arts,” he says. “We really do need to—and want to—embrace the diversity of color, of sexual orientation, of language and internationality,” and Long Reach exemplifies that more than other communities, he adds.
In addition to entertainment, a walk-along exhibit with items from The Columbia Archives will showcase the village’s evolution over the last 50 years.
During the last three years, Long Reach has grown into a hub for education, entrepreneurs and the arts.
“It was always part of the original village concept in the ’70s,” Ball says of making it an arts and culture hub.
As part of an ongoing revitalization plan, the village opened a Head Start program, one of the region’s only African art museums and an international market, and instituted a healthy meal kit program.
The Long Reach Village Center has been a big part of that.
Ball says in 2018, its retail space was only 23% occupied and its office space only 15% occupied. Now it’s about 95% occupied and includes tenants such as the aforementioned African Art Museum of Maryland and DoodleHATCH, an interactive art museum and project from Lee Andersen, a Maryland designer specializing in art clothing.
“We have really worked to live that dream—that vision— for the Long Reach Village Center of being a hub for the arts, for economic development, for people coming together,” Ball says.
For a full lineup of events and activities at the celebration, visit longreach50.com.