By Noel Morgan
Juneteenth Cincinnati Committee
The Cincinnati Juneteenth Festival returns to Eden Park on June 18. For the past two years pandemic concerns forced the Juneteenth Cincinnati to produce “virtual” celebrations, and organizer Lydia Morgan said, “We’re excited to be back in the park to celebrate our 35th anniversary.”
This will also be Cincinnati’s first Juneteenth Festival since President Biden designated Juneteenth as an official national holiday, and Juneteenth is also now an official holiday for employees of the State of Ohio, Hamilton County and the City of Cincinnati.
Commemorating the end of African American enslavement, Juneteenth celebrates freedom, with a mix of history, entertainment, information, and food. “In short,” said Morgan, “we want folks to learn a bit about our shared history while having a great time.”
The Festival kicks off at 11:30 with the parade of Flags of the African Diaspora, followed by a short opening program in Seasongood Pavilion. Festival entertainment is on two stages simultaneously. Featured performances include Rameer Roebuck, Ms. Jaz, Jazz Renaissance, Unique Soul, Cincy Brazil Samba Dancers, Samba Bossa Club Band, Rollins Davis Band, Phy’ness Queenz Dance & Drill, Drummers & Steppers, Magic by Frank Kyle, Voices of Freedom Poets, Neva Ford Nations, Praise Ekeng Dancers, Emmanuel, Last Boppers, Rhythm of Soul, and TKB.
Closing the Festival in Seasongood Pavilion will be The Hues Corporation, best known for their national hit “Rock the Boat.” The Hues Corporation, now based in Cincinnati, is a disco group influenced by R&B. Their specialty is infectious sound, close harmony, great “Hooks” and high energy.
The Juneteenth Festival always has a supervised and instructional children’s area, with lots of activities. Kids can make Father’s Day cards, listen to Vice Mayor Jan Michele Lemon Kearney and others, read short stories, create a square for the Freedom Quilt, get acquainted with 4-H animals, and (very popular) ride horseback. Kids and adults are also assured to marvel at the Mokko Jambie stilt walkers.
The historical significance of Juneteenth pervades the Festival, and patrons will find lots of information in the History Tent and interacting with the Festival’s historical characters. A special feature this year is “Voices of Freedom,” displaying artwork and poetry commissioned by Juneteenth Cincinnati, and reflecting the emotions of newly freed people after the Civil War.
The Cincinnati Health Department will be on hand with Covid testing and inoculations, and Tri-Health will be conducting a variety of health screenings and will add some fun surprises for the children.
There will, of course, be lots of great food.
There is no admission charge and everything is free except the food and shopping with the numerous Juneteenth vendors.
Sunday, June 19, will be the Father’s Day concert in Seasongood Pavilion, a relaxing afternoon of inspirational and Gospel music and dance. The concert features the Grammy Award winning Charles Fold Singers, Empty Vessels, James McCray Choral Ensemble, trumpeter John Thornburn, Archie Byers & Remnant, Renee Hill, Ethan Henderson & Friends, Nigerian Gospel and award-winning Praise Ekeng, RaMeco & TWC, Heavenly Doves Ministries with Roger Dumas Jr., Malcolm Turner, and Texas-based chart topper Neva Ford Nations.
Sponsors and supporters of the 2022 Juneteenth Festival include Tri-Health, Arts Wave
Greater Cincinnati Foundation. Ohio Arts Council, RetireMed, Frisch’s, Mercy Health, Urban League of Greater Southwest Ohio, Talbert House, Fox 19, Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church, Ohio River Valley United Methodist Church, RadioOne, WAIF, Cincinnati Herald, WGRI, Kennedy Heights Community Council, and dozens of other individuals and organizations.