America-themed festival has Sunderland folk seeing stars - and stripes

Characters from Grease, Josh Crow and Carly Auld along with the Jazz cheerleaders help to launch the Sunderland Festival.
Characters from Grease, Josh Crow and Carly Auld along with the Jazz cheerleaders help to launch the Sunderland Festival.
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WEARSIDERS will be seeing stars – and stripes – as Sunderland plays host to an American extravaganza.

This weekend will see cheerleading events, kite flying, live music and more taking place across the city as part of the first Sunderland Festival.

Events are taking pace at venues including the Northern Area Playing Fields, Arts Centre Washington, Sunniside Gardens, Washington Old Hall, Roker and Herrington Country Park which hosts an open air movie – Grease.

The festival, which starts today, will end in Independence Day celebrations at Washington Old Hall on Monday.

As part of the inaugural event, Double Maxim micro-brewery in Rainton Bridge Business Park has produced a commemorative beer.

Visitors to the main licensed events, at the Northern Playing Fields in Washington, will be able to sample a drop of Sunderland Festival 11 ale.

Coun John Kelly, Sunderland Council Cabinet member for safer city and culture, said: “Every year the Sunderland Festival will have a different theme.

“This year we’ve chosen to celebrate our close cultural and historic links with the USA with events and activities across the city for all the family.”

He added: “What better way to celebrate our first Sunderland Festival, than with a special ale brewed at one of the growing number of micro-breweries in the city which are helping to keep famous old names like Double Maxim alive?

“The continued growth of these breweries is another example of business success in our city, which is added cause for celebration along with the launch of another huge, annual community event for everyone to enjoy.”

People attending any of the four days of events can expect everything from classic American car displays, funfair rides and American football to cheerleading, music and dance performed by local schools and community groups, American cuisine along with family and professional kite-flying.

The Sunderland Festival 11 is the latest in a series of large-scale entertainment organised by Sunderland City Council this year, with the Sunderland International Airshow (July 29-31) Sunderland Folk Festival (Aug 27-29) among a number of events still to come.

Sunderland Festival events:

Northern Area Playing Fields, Usworth, Washington

* Main event (Saturday-Sunday, 11am-5pm); free displays including classic American cars, Harley Davidson owners’ club, Wild West re-enactment, American football, cheerleading, music and dance, kite-flying, American cuisine and fairground attractions.

* Country and Western Night (Saturday 7pm-11pm); live music and dance from Lee Davis, Texas Back Four and Knoxville (tickets £3/£2 available online from www.artscentrewashington.co.uk) or from the Tourist Information Centre, City Library & Arts centre, Fawcett Street, Sunderland.

Herrington Country Park

* Open air screening of Grease. The free event starts at 6pm tomorrow with a performance from Pop Idol’s Aaron Bayley.

Barnes Park

* Sounds of America (Sunday, 2-4pm); free swing and jazz music from the Bright Street Big Band.

Washington Old Hall

* Independence Day Celebrations on Monday from 11am.