Jacksonville debris

Trees downed by a tornado in March in Jacksonville are still waiting to be picked up. (Stephen Gross / The Anniston Star)

It’s been almost five months since an EF-3 tornado ripped through the city of Jacksonville, leaving in its wake downed power lines, thousands of toppled trees and hundreds of damaged homes and buildings.

Slowed by the high volume of demand on contractors, residents and Jacksonville State University officials have been working since the March 19 twister to renovate, rebuild and reorder what the storm wrecked, and now the Jacksonville Arts Council wants to offer respite.

The Arts Council has organized a day of food and fun to help raise money for tornado disaster relief.

“We want people to have a fun day and to forget about the tornado,” said Nancy Gillespie of the arts council.

The Celebrate Jacksonville Festival: Jacksonville Strong event will be from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. today at the Jacksonville Community Center, and the public is invited. The festival will be preceded by a 5K color run at 7:30 a.m., also at the community center. The run costs $25 per participant.

The festival itself will be free to the public. The only charge will be $5 per child for all-day access to the kids section, which will feature games, a slide, bouncy houses and a rock-climbing wall. Gillespie said the main festival will have 28 vendors selling food and wares, a dunking booth and five bands.

All proceeds from the events will be used to help residents impacted by the March 19 tornado.

If you’re in the neighborhood, or if you’re not but you’re looking for a way to spend one of the last football-free Saturdays of the year, take a spin over to Jacksonville today.

It promises to be a fun, relaxing way to lend our neighbors to the north a helping hand.