Drake Park is home to many a Bend cultural tradition—and this year, Bend's iconic riverfront park will also be the site of a two-day Juneteenth celebration, hosted by the Black-led organization, The Father's Group. The second annual Juneteenth Celebration in Bend takes place Saturday, June 18 and Sunday, June 19, and includes music, dancing, food carts, kids' activities and a number of educational and historical exhibits.
Juneteenth, an amalgam of "June" and "19," marks the day in 1865 when people in the state of Texas got word that over two years after the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, "more than 250,000 enslaved Black people in the state were free by executive decree. This day came to be known as 'Juneteenth,' by the newly freed people in Texas," describes the website of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. "Juneteenth marks our country's second independence day. Although it has long been celebrated in the African American community, this monumental event remains largely unknown to most Americans," the museum details.
"We had our fundraiser that just happened this past Saturday night that was absolutely amazing—and if that's any indicator of what the festival is going to be like—the atmosphere—it's going to be that true jubilation-type celebration," said Kenny Adams, executive director of The Father's Group. "It's just a lot of fun. There's going to be a lot of education at this event. Both Saturday and Sunday we have educational components that are not only going to be at the education booth but throughout the entire event. We have entertainment that we're flying in from all over the country—Florida, Texas, California; some Oregon artists are going to be performing as well."
On top of having local food carts, the group has also planned its own menu, in partnership with Spork, with a Carnival-type motif in keeping with the festival's theme of "Defining Our Liberation." That menu includes fried catfish, spicy mac 'n cheese, Cajun fries and seafood gumbo, to name just a sampling.
Created as a group aimed at helping Black fathers support their children, The Father's Group has been steadily expanding its offerings and presence since its founding in 2018.
"The whole mission of The Father's Group is outreach to families and students," said Adams, who took on the role of executive director in January. "We've been growing by leaps and bounds. We have so many different initiatives and programs that we are currently working on that we bring to the community—that the community has really rallied behind."
Initiatives include its Deshuan Adderley Memorial Scholarship fund, created in honor of the Black student who died by suicide after being bullied at Summit High. The Father's Group also hosts a regular film series in partnership with BendFilm, with Q&A discussions following, as well as its new "Bridge" program aimed at working with individuals in the parole and probation system to help reduce recidivism among people formerly incarcerated.
For Adams, a father of four, all these programs center around a culture of caring.
"We're all fathers. So we're coming at it from the lens of, we just want to take care of these kids. From a father's standpoint, it doesn't matter if you're dealing with someone even five years younger than you. If they're coming to you for advice, you kick into father mode real quick."
That focus extends to the wider community, too.
"Whether it's dealing with the community, or dealing with vendors, we just want people to have a good time, to benefit, and [to know] that they're taken care of."
On top of Bend's two-day event, another celebration is also planned for Prineville on June 14 at The Corral food cart lot. That event, which also includes music and food, happens from 4 to 7 pm.
Juneteenth Celebration 2022
Sat., Jun 18 and Sun., June 19. 10am-6pm
Drake Park, Bend
Tue., June 14. 4-7pm
The Corral, Prineville