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Burton St. Agricultural Fest celebrates history, founder of historically Black community

By Samiar Nefzi, Brittany Whitehead

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    ASHEVILLE, North Carolina (WLOS) — The Burton Street community came together Saturday to celebrate the Burton Street Community Agricultural Festival.

In 1913, Edward W. Pearson started off the event to bring the historically Black community together.

A civil rights leader in the mountains and a U.S. Army veteran, Pearson was instrumental in developing the Burton Street, originally known as Pearson Park, and Park View neighborhoods to create African American subdivisions. Pearson was also an entrepreneur, starting and operating a general store, organized an insurance company and sold real estate in the Asheville area.

Burton St. Agricultural Fest celebrates history, founder of historically Black community

He also formed Asheville’s first black semi-professional baseball team and founded and was president of the Blue Ridge Colored Baseball League. It was comprised of teams from Charlotte, Asheville, Gastonia, Winston-Salem, Concord and South Carolina teams from Rock Hill, Anderson and Gastonia.

Through all of his endeavors, he was passionate about improving life for African Americans in western North Carolina.

“I’m very proud of him,” said Clifford Cotton, Pearson’s grandson. “I’m trying to keep his legacy alive.”

Now 80 years old, Cotton told News 13 his grandfather paved the way for many African Americans in the mountains.

The festival, originally known as the Buncombe County and District Colored Festival, brought in thousands of people and was known as one of the largest in the Southeast.

More than 100 years after its inception, community members continue to attend.

“It’s very interesting,” said Cotton. “It’s enlightening to see people involved in this community as it was then.”

Pearson, who passed away in 1946, raked in several accolades during his time in western North Carolina, including being elected the first president of the Asheville branch of North Carolina’s NAACP.

“I have a deep obligation to ensure this continues,” said Cotton. “I want to keep his legacy alive and let the young people know how rough it was then than it is today.”

“I’m enjoying the music, vibes, and the culture of it all,” said Janice Ramirez, of Asheville. “I love it.”

Pearson set out to create a community event to help embrace the community and unite as one.

“Very important,” said Vanessa Bogani, of Asheville. “Learn your history and roots; everything that’s contributed to our society.”

Cotton said the event will be back next year.

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