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Arts, Sports & Culture

Pittsburgh's Juneteenth Returns As An In-Person Celebration This Summer

juneteenth 2019
Rossano Paul Photography
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Western Pennsylvania Juneteenth
Visitors enjoy the entertainment at the 2019 Juneteenth celebration, in Point State Park.

Pittsburgh is preparing to host its biggest Juneteenth yet. The event marks a return to a fully in-person celebration after last year’s live/virtual hybrid. It will also be the first Juneteenth since the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County made the commemoration of the end of slavery in the U.S. an official holiday.

The festival’s line-up was announced Wednesday in City Council chambers. “We’re going to do 10 days as opposed to the regular three days we’ve been doing over the years,” said William Marshall, founder and CEO of the Western Pennsylvania Juneteenth celebration.

Juneteenth is June 19, the date in 1865 that the last enslaved people in the country learned they were free. It is celebrated nationally, especially in the Black community. Gov. Wolf declared Juneteenth a state holiday in 2019.

Pittsburgh’s celebration starts with a day-long, family-oriented kickoff festival June 12, in Chartiers Park, in the West End. The June 18 weekend hosts three days of events, including youth sports tournaments, in Mellon Park, and the Juneteenth Freedom Days Celebration, in Point State Park. Juneteenth offerings that weekend include onsite COVID-19 vaccinations courtesy of Allegheny Health Network, Gateway Health, and UPMC.

Also opening that weekend is the Minority Vendors Impact Plaza, located where Penn and Liberty avenues meet Downtown. June 20 brings a “heart-healthy dance contest” and attempt to set the Guinness Book of World Records standard for the longest Soul Train line dance.

Musical highlights June 18-20 include sets by The Ohio Players, rappers Big Daddy Kane and Rakim, and Earth, Wind & Fire tribute band Shining Star.

A new component of the festival is the Pittsburgh Black Music Festival, June 24-27, also in Point State Park. The concert series primarily features nationally touring soul, jazz, R&B and gospel acts, including Roy Ayers, LaShun Pace, Klymaxx, Rose Royce, DJ Kid Capri and DJ Mannie Fresh.

June 26 brings the festival's now-traditional Juneteenth-Jubilee parade, featuring historical re-enactors and civic groups commemorating an 1870 parade in Pittsburgh that marked the passage of the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which gave Black men the right to vote. The day also includes events promoting Black voting rights.

All festival events are free. Face masks are required.

For more information, see wpajuneteenth.com.