By Robert Felton
It is the first Juneteenth celebration on the West Side since 2008 and only the fifth festival commemorating the emancipation holiday here since 2003.
Festivities, which start today, are planned across the six square blocks of Garfield Park, 100 S. Central Park Ave., and will feature close to 300 vendors from around the country, organizers say.
The elaborate event will include an art gallery, the national Eyes Wide Open exhibit, which pays tribute to the fallen soldiers of the Iraq War, and free health clinics.
There will also be a parade Saturday, which will run from Madison and California to the festival site starting about 11 a.m. Festival hours are noon to 9 p.m.
“Austin is the largest predominantly African-American community in Chicago, but far too often too many of the negatives get emphasized,” said Rickie Brown, chairman of the Westside Historical Society and planner of the event.
“We hear about crime, drop-out rates, and prisoner re-entry, but we rarely have the chance to share many unifying moments of positivity across Austin. That’s what this event is about.”
Brown is a lifelong resident of Austin and has worked with several nonprofit, community outreach organizations, including Bethel New Life and South Austin Coalition Community Council.
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AustinTalks first reported the return of the annual festival in January.