The Rebirth of Cool

Juneteenth is back. The oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States honors the day when slaves in Galveston, Texas, learned that President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation two years earlier. For a long time, Denver boasted one of the nation’s largest Juneteenth celebrations, attracting thousands. In the past few years, however, the festivities have broken off into smaller gatherings of people and organizations. Recently, community leaders — including former mayor Wellington Webb — resolved to revive Juneteenth in Denver, and today, tens of thousands of celebrants are expected to revel along Welton Street.

“Jazz greats such as Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong once played on Welton Street,” recalls Webb.

“This year, there will be over 25 groups performing on three stages, with a variety of entertainment for all ages,” says Brother Jeff, a community activist and one of the Juneteenth organizers. “Jazz, blues, gospel, R&B and hip-hop will be featured, as well as fashion shows and theatrical reenactments from African-American history.”

Children will enjoy storytelling, games and rides, and people of all ages can savor the food and amble about the vendor and non-profit organization booths. A special health pavilion will also dispense information.

The rebirth begins with a parade at 10 a.m. at Fuller Park, 29th Avenue and Williams Street (in front of Manual High School); the fest itself takes place on Welton Street, between 24th and 28th, in historic Five Points. For information, call 303-297-0823.
Sat., June 14, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., 2008

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Annette Walker