GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The smells of good food and the sounds of a good time filled the streets of west Gulfport on Saturday as hundreds came out for the annual Unity Festival.
There’s one thing that seems to always succeed at bringing people together: good food. There was plenty of it at the Unity Fest.
“This is probably some of the most unique food offerings we ever get in Gulfport," said Gulfport Police Chief Leonard Papania. "There’s Creole turkey necks today, cheeseburger egg rolls, I’m about to eat some fried baby back ribs and anything else I can fit in my pie hole today.”
This was the 11th year for the festival. In addition to the food, there were vendors, games, a parade and live entertainment. Papania said he and his department enjoy the festival every year.
They’ve been busy in the past few weeks, working to solve a number of deadly crimes. He said the festival showcases exactly what is needed to end that violence: unity.
“You’re going to see how people are interacting and enjoying one another, and that’s really the essence of who we are in recent times isn’t our identity. This is our identity," he said.
“We’ve got challenges like any community, and sometimes these festivals let us break down barriers or find some solutions, or at the very base of it, it’s just about fellowship," said Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes.
It’s a simple enough message, even for the kids.
“It’s just something for people to get to know people and get along," said Abigail Dramble.
Three business men known as Brothers in the Kitchen know the power of food in bringing people together. They run a catering and meal prep business and sell their own sauces.
“Our slogan is brothers in unity, serving the community, so that’s what we do,” said Tyrell McArthur.
The message of unity is one they hope continues long after the weekend.
“It’s not about what neighborhood you’re from, or what sects you rep or whatever the case is, but we’re all one family, one goal,” McArthur said.