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“Carolfest” Will Aid Events Zone Manager

Carol Williams (left) and Katie Lucas Murray

by Gene Marrano

If you’ve been to a downtown happening planned by Event Zone in recent years, Festival in the Park for example, you have probably encountered Carol Williams. Those who have volunteered to help staff an event are surely familiar with Williams, who made sure those people knew where to go and what to do, and always in a friendly way.

Now she is in need of help. Williams, the business manager for Event Zone, suffered a stroke late last year that has left her partially paralyzed on one side of her body, and unable to speak.

To make matters worse, Williams lost her health insurance and is now struggling to pay her medical bills, according to Katie Lucas Murray, a longtime friend and former co-worker of Williams at Event Zone.

Murray wanted to do something to help her stricken pal, so she’s come up with the CarolFest Benefit Concert & Festival at Elmwood Park this Saturday (July 23) from 3-10 p.m. Murray has recruited a number of local bands for the effort, which has an inclement weather venue lined up at Awful Arthur’s Towers. Admission is a $10 minimum donation.

Murray, an events planner for Event Zone before she moved to North Carolina (she’s back in Roanoke working with Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway) is also planning a golf tournament and fundraising dinner on Saturday, August 27 at Roanoke Country Club. The tourney will feature a Captain’s Choice format ($100 per player), followed by a barbecue buffet dinner at the clubhouse, along with a silent auction.

 Murray hopes to raise enough money so that Williams can enter a top-notch speech therapy program. “There has been some progress, but she can’t talk,” said Murray of her friend’s condition. Walking is also a major effort for Williams at this point. She can communicate with facial expressions and Murray said Williams likes to roll her eyes at her husband. They raised two daughters and have been married for almost 40 years.

Among the groups slated to play at CarolFest this Saturday are The Fat Daddy Band, Polychrome, Shorefire and The Dirt Road Travelers. “It’s been phenomenal,” said Murray of the response to her call for participation. “I was astonished. It shows how much everybody loves her.”

Food and beverages will be available as well. “Anybody that was at all involved behind the scenes [or as] a volunteer … pretty much knows her,” said Murray of Williams, “she’s been kind of the glue that held everything together. She did everything.”

Murray, who is now married, was known as Katie Lucas back then. She worked alongside Williams for five years, on events like St. Patrick’s Day and the Taste of the Blue Ridge Blues & Jazz Festival. “We were there when Event Zone was created,” recalls Murray of an agency set up as part of a merger between Festival in the Park and the special events department for the City of Roanoke. “If it hadn’t have been for Carol, I don’t know what would have happened,” said Murray; “she’s the one person who always manages to put a positive spin on a not-so-great situation, and keep her cool.”

Williams’ departure “is a huge loss for the downtown Roanoke events community,” said Murray, who also notes that Carol and her husband Melvin have “a million best friends. They’re just great people.”

Williams wouldn’t want all the fuss that CarolFest constitutes, according to Murray, “but she would be the first person to do it for someone else.”  Now Murray is stepping up for her fallen friend; “I’d pay money to hear that laugh again.”

See for more on these events.

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