- Associated Press - Thursday, June 4, 2015

TUSCUMBIA, Ala. (AP) - Plans for the 37th annual Helen Keller Festival were announced Wednesday during a news conference at Ivy Green, Keller’s birthplace.

The festival is scheduled for June 22-28. And, as in years past, it will feature live music, arts and crafts, tours, movie night, car show, parade and productions of William Gibson’s play, “The Miracle Worker.”

Keller was born June 27, 1880, and became deaf and blind after an illness when she was 19 months old. She was taught to communicate using sign language by Anne Sullivan at Ivy Green.

“It’s an important day,” said festival board member Fletch Passmore. “One of the most magical things to ever happen in the world happened right here.”

Passmore emphasized that while local residents may not realize the international impact Keller had, people still come from all over the world to visit her home, go to the festival and see “The Miracle Worker.”

“When you say world famous, that’s not an exaggeration,” he said. “Folks in Alabama don’t always realize that there is more to the Shoals’ history than music.”

Darren Butler, director of the local production of “The Miracle Worker,” talked about the play as the finishing touches were being done on the updated stage. He called the newly rebuilt set “spectacular,” and said it does a better job of mimicking the home.

The Courage Award, given to a Shoals resident who has overcome disability, was presented to Joanna Larson. A history instructor at Northwest-Shoals Community College, Larson is visually impaired.

Announced as grand marshal for the parade was Keller Johnson, great-great-grandniece of Helen Keller.

The parade and street party take place Thursday of the festival, with the parade starting at 6 p.m., and the Ben Parker Project getting the street party underway at 7 p.m. Both events take place in downtown.

Musical headliners include the Atlanta Rhythm Section on Friday, and Phil Vassar on Saturday. Other performers on Friday include The Wildwood Ruminators, The Kerry Gilbert Band and Travis Wammack.

Saturday will see Kaid Wright, Joseph Baldwin, Holli Mosely and Olivia Lane take the stage before Vassar’s 8:30 p.m. show.

All Friday and Saturday concerts will be in Spring Park. Admission to the entertainment section of the park during the festival is $5; ages 10 and younger are admitted free. There is no admission charge for North Bank activities, including the arts and crafts area.

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Information from: TimesDaily, http://www.timesdaily.com/

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