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This Juneteenth celebration has been going strong for 36 years

 Booths line a sidewalk next to a lake
Cincinnati Juneteenth Festival
Cincinnati's annual Juneteenth celebration returns to Eden Park on June 17, 2023 at Mirror Lake.

While Juneteenth only just became a federal holiday two years ago, Cincinnati's Juneteenth celebration has been an annual tradition for 36 years. Thetwo-day festival returns this weekend, along with a new tradition — the Cincinnati Juneteenth Parade on Monday, June 19.

In fact, there are a growing number of Juneteenth events across the region, ranging from art exhibits, a block party at The Banks, smaller community gatherings, craft fests and museum events.

Learn More: Juneteenth's 157-year history, explained

Festival coordinator Lydia Morgan says it makes her feel "wonderful" to see so many new ways to celebrate and that the holiday has really gained nationwide recognition.

"It makes me feel great. I love the idea that it has. I was working all along with the national group that was working to make it a national holiday, so the fact that it has become a national holiday has really, really been a source of joy for all of us," she says.

The festival in Eden Park is June 17-18. Activities include a parade of flags representing the African diaspora, organized activities and crafts for kids, music on two stages, food trucks and more than 50 vendors and exhibitors.

This year's theme is "Let Freedom Ring." Morgan says it's about honoring the city's young people.

"We will be listening to their ideas about what we need to be doing about some of the pressing issues that we're facing in the city as well as the nation," she explains. "We will have a tent that will be dedicated to the youth and each group will have an hour that they will be using to talk about whatever it is that they choose in the current events realm. And people can sit and listen or ask questions."

Learn More: New exhibit exploring Black liberation opens Feb. 25 at Kennedy Heights Arts Center

Morgan notes that Juneteenth celebrations are for everyone, too. That's what has driven the people behind the festival to keep putting it on for 36 years, she says.

"I think it's because most of the people who are working on this are really, really dedicated to making sure it happens and making sure that people know about Juneteenth, as well as the history aspect of it and understand that it's a celebration for everybody because it's American history," she says. "A lot of the people who still work on it have been working on it for 36 years because they really have their heart in it."

If you can't make it to a Juneteenth event, Morgan offers this suggestion for how to celebrate: "Do what we do on other celebrations days — cook out, have fun, have friends over!"

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.