Originally created 11/26/03

Sharpton stands in for James Brown

Augustans who showed up at the ninth annual James Brown Turkey Giveaway on Tuesday expecting to see the Godfather were in for a surprise.

The singer, who usually attends the Thanksgiving event, was out of the country. But in his place at Dyess Park was the Rev. Al Sharpton, a Democratic candidate for president.

"At the Apollo, he asked me to come and stand in for him. I said I'd do it," said the Rev. Sharpton, who first attended the giveaway two years ago. "He's like my father."

After posing for a few photos and shaking hands with event organizers, the Rev. Sharpton made his way outside, where almost 1,000 people stood in two lines.

The Swanee Quintet played gospel tunes while a small group of people formed a semicircle around the stage area, clapping and singing along.

The Rev. Sharpton joined the quintet, tapping his foot to the beat, and band members asked the crowd to "raise the roof for the reverend all the way to the White House."

The Rev. Sharpton said Mr. Brown told him to drop whatever he was doing to be at the giveaway.

"He never forgot the days when he didn't have a turkey," the candidate said.

Then the featured guest led everyone in prayer before the giveaway began. As people filed inside, the Rev. Sharpton and other volunteers handed out bags of food.

For the first time, Popeye's Chicken & Biscuits assisted in the event, providing 650 turkeys and packages of Cajun rice and biscuits. Robb Conner, the regional marketing manager, said the Augusta-based franchise has held similar giveaways locally but they have not been well attended.

"We realized it was because everyone was coming here," he said. "So we decided to join up and have one big event."

Elif Hogan, Mr. Brown's personal assistant, said the giveaway is important to people and to Mr. Brown.

"It's a lot of work but not when you know what you're doing," she said.

Reach Dena Levitz at (706) 823-3339 or dena.levitz@augustachronicle.com.


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