DENVER — Denver's iconic celebration of Juneteenth is set to return to the historic Five Points community with an amalgamation of old and new traditions.
Boasted as one of the largest Juneteenth celebrations in the country, Denver's Juneteenth Music Festival, makes its comeback after being held for a one-day virtual event last year.
"We are so excited to be leading the effort to put COVID behind us," said Norman Harris, executive director of the festival. "We want everyone to go get vaccinated if you have the opportunity, we want everybody then to come down and celebrate. Juneteenth is something everyone needs, every year."
The June 19 holiday both recognizes and celebrates the emancipation of those who had been enslaved in the United States; across the country, the holiday has a varying official recognition.
This year will mark the first that the holiday is officially commemorated in Denver.
"Really what it does is, it gives us the opportunity to understand the mistakes we've made in the past so we don't make them moving forward," said Harris.
The 2021 festivities will begin with a new element at Levitt Pavilion.
"Friday June 18, we're going to be hosting the Juneteenth R&B Summer Kick off with double platinum recording artist, 112, to kick off," said Harris. "It's just going to be an amazing, wonderful night under the stars. We're very thankful for our partnership with Live Nation and Levitt Pavilion."
In Denver, Juneteenth celebrations date back to to the 1950s. In 2012, Harris led the charge to re-energize the movement through means of a music festival.
This year's festivities will also incorporate more components of the LGBTQIA community.
In past years, Denver's Pride and Juneteenth celebrations have coincided. Organizers agreed to move Denver Pride to one weekend later so people could attend both.
"It's amazing having partners like Pride fest who changed their date, which is historic, to come support what we do, and we're going to support what they do," Harris said.
Harris said while he's grateful to witness growth of the festival and awareness of the holiday, he believes there's more work to be done.
"There's so many pockets of this country who have no idea what it is, I think what that does represent is that our country has not truly acknowledged the institution of slavery and the pure reality of it. Until we can get to that point, it's going to be hard for us to really reach a place of atonement and a place of healing," Harris said.
Denver7 is a proud media sponsor of the Juneteenth Music Festival.