Rain might have dampened the grounds at the lakefront but not the mood as dozens of people gathered at the Pennoyer Park Bandshell for the annual Juneteenth celebration.
Sponsored by the Urban League, the event featured entertainment by gospel singers and praise dance groups from Racine and Kenosha, an R and B band and “old school” and hip hop music by a local DJ.
The event also featured family-oriented and kid-friendly activities, such as, face painting, a bouncing house, arts and crafts and games. Food and informational vendors also participated in the event.
Yolanda Santos Adams, chief executive director of the Urban League, said the mix of rain, cold, wind in the late morning and early afternoon kept crowds at bay. By mid-afternoon, the clouds parted and for a brief period of time the sun shone brightly and a crowd of about 100 people joined or re-joined the festivities.
“It was started out with the rain, so we had to move the equipment on the bandshell it got cold, windy and chilly,” she said. “We had a little mix of everything.
The Rev. Patricia Woods-Clark, pastor of Straightway Ministries, whose “praise dancers” were among the performers, said the event brought the community together.
“I thought it was awesome, the fellowship, the smiling,” she said. “I’d definitely return again.”
Benjamin Woods, 12, of Kenosha, said he enjoyed the performances and the food, which, for him included basket full of mouth-watering ribs and fries.
“It was exciting, with really a lot of intense activities and things that people could really get involved in,” he said.
His friend Daileon Bryant, 13, said he thought that the celebration was fun for the whole community.
“Fun for the people and a day to praise God,” he said.
LaQuinta Murray, had worked all day at an event booth, said the event fostered “a lot of friendliness and camaraderie.”
“It was a very joyful gathering. Great music, too,” she said.
At the start of the celebration, State Rep. Tod Ohnstad, D-Kenosha, presented a resolution passed by the legislature earlier this spring supporting the observance of Juneteenth. Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when the last slaves were freed more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was declared by President Abraham Lincoln.
Adams said event organizers anticipate moving the celebration to another location next year, after two years at the bandshell. While weather has been a factor, a change of venue may also draw more people, she said.
“Attendance wasn’t quite what we wanted it to be,” she said.