The first-ever Inspire! Festival in Downtown Sumter, which took place over four days from Thursday to Sunday, did what it set out to do in its name.
The festival was organized by the Ackerman Legacy Foundation in memory of the late Roger …
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The festival was organized by the Ackerman Legacy Foundation in memory of the late Roger Ackerman, who died in September 2018. Roger Ackerman was a philanthropist and supported arts and culture in Sumter. He also had a hand in establishing the Temple Sinai Jewish History Center, which opened in June 2018. According to Sumter County Gallery of Art Executive Director Karen Watson, it is the only Holocaust museum between Atlanta and Washington, D.C.
"To have that in Sumter, again, it was all made possible by a vision," Watson said. "Roger was a true visionary, and we've had visionaries in Sumter."
The festival's main events included the annual Shrimp Feast on Thursday night at the Sumter County Museum, an art exhibit at City Centre next to the Sumter Opera House featuring work from Roger Ackerman's wife, Deane Ackerman, and a sold-out, first-ever dinner on Main Street served by Hamptons Restaurant preceding a concert featuring the Rob Crosby Group and The Footnotes at La Piazza. There was also a musical performance at the Jewish History Center from two nationally renowned New York City chamber music ensembles, Decoda and Attacca Quartet, performances of "The Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon" at the Sumter Little Theatre throughout the weekend and a Gallery After Hours at the art gallery on Friday featuring smooth jazz with After Dark Jazz Duo Robert Gibbs and Margaret Knight.
A Washington Post reviewer wrote of Attacca Quartet, "They come very close to epitomizing the string quartet ideal: four strikingly individual players with the ability to speak eloquently in one voice."
"We all came together and started meeting in November, and we were determined to make this happen in 2019," Watson said. "And it did."
Those who paid to attend the various festival events were giving back to the Sumter community and helping keep the legacy of Roger Ackerman alive.
"The benefits from Inspire events are going to go towards organizations that Roger supported, like the museum, art gallery and the (Sumter) Little Theater," Sumter County Museum Executive Director Annie Rivers said.
Benefits from the Shrimp Feast went to the museum to help fund its programs throughout the year. The fourth beneficiary from the festival was the CART Fund, a pocket change fundraiser that Ackerman helped start in the Sumter Rotary Club that is now used in Rotary nationwide.
"We do a lot of free programs," Rivers said. "We offer free school group tours throughout the year, so that really allows us to do this."
The art gallery's Watson also pointed out the significance of the gallery featuring Deane Ackerman's pieces.
"People rarely get a chance to see her work," Watson said. "It hangs in her house. She does not promote herself; she creates art just for her own enjoyment. She's not interested in selling; nobody has an original Deane Ackerman."
Organizers of the festival hope it helps draw people in in future years to see what Sumter is all about.
"We hope that people will come to Sumter and find out how culturally vibrant this city really is," Watson said. "And that also includes communicating or making people in Sumter aware of all we have to offer culturally."
Watson said she was happy to have a hand in honoring Roger Ackerman with such an elaborate celebration.
"It's a labor of love, really," she said, "to honor the legacy of Roger Ackerman."
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