Juneteenth celebrations in Kansas City will be bigger this year, and organizers are bringing back the parade that has been absent for more than two decades.
The late Horace M. Peterson III, who can be considered the father of the modern 18th and Vine Jazz District, would be smiling to see the floats and marching units that will wend through the district beginning at 11 a.m. on Saturday, June 10.
“The parade is going to be an added feature and something the community really spoke out for and said they wanted to see come back,” said Peterson’s daughter, Makeda Peterson, who is a key organizer of Juneteenth events. “Just like the St. Patrick’s Day parade and other major parades, it will be a positive representation for businesses and organizations here in Kansas City.”
“It’s another activity in the month of June that positively promotes African-American culture,” Peterson continued. “A parade just seems like a fun way to get it started.”
Horace Peterson’s widow, Barbara Peterson, is helping to organize Juneteenth activities.
Then the jazz district will hold its big Juneteenth party up and down 18th Street the following Saturday, June 17.
Juneteenth is an annual celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. It stems from the arrival of Union troops at Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, with news that the Civil War was over and the slaves had been freed — more than two years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
Although focused on the African-American experience, Juneteenth activities are open to everyone.
On June 17, 18th Street will be closed to traffic from the Paseo to Woodland Avenue to make way for the free street party expected to draw thousands. There will be live music as well as retail and nonprofit vendors.
A kid’s zone will include inflatables, face painting, pony rides and a petting zoo. Denver Broncos linebacker Shane Ray, a Kansas City native, and others from the NFL will offer a football camp for up to 250 kids.
The Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department will use a grant to sign up 500 kids for summer swim lessons, underscoring the need for water safety education for urban youths and adults. Horace Peterson drowned in 1992.
Swope Health Services, Truman Medical Center and the Kansas City Health Department also will be on hand.
Activities will continue into the evening. For more information visit KCJuneteenth on Facebook.
Last year’s Juneteenth in the jazz district drew about 5,000 people. Organizers are hoping to attract 8,000-10,000 this year.
In January, Juneteenth-KC was granted nonprofit tax status.
“We’re positioning the organization to celebrate and positively promote African-American culture throughout the entire month of June and extending throughout the calendar year,” Makeda Peterson said.