Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Juneteenth Festival still seeking funds

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

WALNUT HILLS - The month of May has become a bittersweet time for Lydia Morgan, organizer of Cincinnati's annual Juneteenth Festival.

It's an exciting time, when plans for the popular summer event at Eden Park are starting to take shape and entertainers are being booked. It is also a time of concern as Morgan realizes she is struggling to find money to put on the celebration, which costs around $15,000.

What: 17th annual Juneteenth Festival

When: Noon-9 p.m. June 19

Where: Eden Park

Cost: Free

"I hate that feeling every May of 'Oh my gosh!'" Morgan said. "It's become a struggle every year to raise funds, and that's sad because the event is so good."

The 17th annual Juneteenth celebration, themed "Love, Peace and Harmony," will take place June 19 at Eden Park. The festival is part of a nationwide celebration that marks the end of slavery in the United States.

The festival began struggling financially a year ago when budget cutbacks forced the Cincinnati Park Board to slash funding to the event from $5,000 to $1,000. Organizers scrambled at the last minute to get additional funds from corporate contributors, such as WCIN 1480-AM, Kroger and UPS to hold the festival.

Private citizens also chipped in about $1,000 and area entertainers agreed to perform for whatever price the festival committee could afford.

Morgan said the festival would require similar support this year to be successful. Kroger and the park board have already stepped up with $1,000 each, she said. Several entertainers have also agreed to perform at a discounted rate.

"If we didn't have those people, we would be in bad shape," Morgan said.

She said the festival committee would like to find a major corporate sponsor that would pitch in $5,000 to $10,000 a year. Planners have launched a letter-writing campaign to secure more donors.

The family-oriented event began in the Tristate after Morgan visited a Juneteenth Festival in Phoenix. It now attracts more than 5,000 people yearly.

This year's celebration will feature musical groups, food, arts and crafts and a sweet potato pie contest. Morgan said the festival would focus on bringing police and firefighters together with the community to improve relations.

"This event is something that people can come to and see that Cincinnati is really about love and brotherhood," Morgan said.

For information or to make a donation, call 631-7289.


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