In its 30th year in Manhattan, Juneteenth is still growing.
The local Juneteenth event kicks off Friday, marking the annual celebration of the end of slavery in the United States. The festival will expand to two days for the first time and provide music, food and other activities.
“It has gotten bigger and stronger,” said Dave Baker, city liaison to the Juneteenth committee. “I think it lasts because of what it really stands for. It’s an event that everybody celebrates freedom.”
Manhattan’s celebration started in 1989 in a K-State faculty member’s backyard. It then moved to Long’s Park. It was then held in Douglass Park for several years before moving to its current home in City Park in 2011, the same year Baker became involved with the event.
“It has grown tremendously,” he said. “We’ve gotten so much more support from the community as a whole.”
Along with adding events on Friday night, the festival will also add a money drop for kids in two different age groups, and yoga, a boot camp and Zumba on Saturday morning. There will also be a 5K fun run at 7:15 a.m. At 11 a.m., the Mounted Color Guard will lead a Unity Walk. The first 100 people will get a free t-shirt to commemorate this walk.
Baker said one of the main events this year will be the performance at 8 p.m. Saturday by Grammy-winning saxophonist Kirk Whalum, who performed on Whitney Houston’s single “I Will Always Love You” and also worked on the score for the movie “Boyz n the Hood.”
Manhattan saxophonist JahVelle Rhone and his group, the Fly Band, will perform at 6:30 p.m. Friday.
Baker said support both financially and otherwise has made it easier for the committee to bring in more musical acts, more food vendors and more activities over the years.
“It has allowed us to do more and bring more people in the community together,” Baker said.