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Published: Sunday, 6/22/2008

Toledo Museum of Art's Juneteenth Fest drenched by rain but stays upbeat

BY JC REINDL
BLADE STAFF WRITER
C'nece Chyanne Brown, 4, has her face painted by Chelsea Younkman during the Toledo Museum of Art's Juneteenth fest. The event was marked by songs, arts, and stories. C'nece Chyanne Brown, 4, has her face painted by Chelsea Younkman during the Toledo Museum of Art's Juneteenth fest. The event was marked by songs, arts, and stories.
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Hundreds of weekend adventurers yesterday experienced some of the sights, sounds, and stories of African-American culture during the Toledo Museum of Art's fourth annual Juneteenth Festival.

The nearly eight-hour event began along the museum's steps and entrance plaza at 2445 Monroe St. and spread onto the road, which was blocked to traffic.

With a nearly shoulder-to-shoulder crowd early in the day, the festival seemed on track to surpass last year's record attendance of almost 4,000 people.

But then came the rain.

Some festival-goers scampered home in the afternoon downpour, while others ran for cover inside the museum and its Glass Pavilion.

The African drum-making, face-painting, and other activities also moved indoors.

Children and parents were soon busy once again, this time constructing cardboard masks among the company of ancient Egyptian statues and the marble busts of Roman emperors.

There was no more chatting over Slurpies and black kettle barbecue. Friends and families now mingled before the Van Goghs and Monets on the museum walls.

"There are all kinds of activities in here to do. You can't let the rain spoil your fun," said Carol Gibson of the Old West End, who was with a friend and his 9-year-old daughter.

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when slaves in Galveston, Texas, learned from Union Gen. Gordon Granger they had been freed 2 1/2 years earlier by President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation.

The day is a state holiday in Texas and is gaining wider recognition throughout the country.

The Toledo museum's free Juneteenth festival has also grown steadily in attendance and scope.

"This event taught us what Juneteenth was," said Debbie Smith of North Toledo, accompanied by her four grandchildren. "We had heard of it, but we never saw it in action."

Not everyone fled from the rain. Just as the showers appeared to peak in intensity, young members of the JJ Express Drill and Drum Corp. began to march and twirl across the museum's front plaza, their outfits soaked and their faces dripping and glistening with rain water.

"We didn't let [it] rain on our parade," said museum worker Sara Stacy.

Entertainment earlier in the day included a loud and lively performance by Like Water Drum and Dance of Ann Arbor. As the musicians pounded on African Djembe, Dunun, and Krin drums, the dancers flailed their arms and legs about the stage.

"This is a great event for families to come to - the events, the cultural enrichment, the whole atmosphere," said Thandi Hughes, a mother and a West Toledo resident.

Contact JC Reindl at:

jreindl@theblade.com

or 419-724-6065.



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