Carl Stovall knows how important the Black Arts Festival is to the community. Founded in 1968 during the civil rights movement, its original mission was to give black families a respite from unrest both locally and nationally by offering an outlet for enjoying art and entertainment in a safe and supportive environment. The event has always been held, despite financial struggles in recent years. This year’s festival promises new activities and a greater opportunity for dialogue about several salient issues.
“This is an important part of the community from a legacy standpoint,” Stovall said. “It’s been going on for 46 years and people look forward to it. There’s deep history here. It happens every Labor Day weekend, and that weekend is synonymous with this event for so many. For that reason alone, we need to stay viable.”
The festival will take place Saturday through Monday at McAdams Park. Admission is $3 for a button that’s good for the whole weekend. The buttons can be purchased at the festival gates or in advance at Roseline’s International Enterprise, a floral and gift shop at 21st and Oliver, and P&P Seeds and Bait, 1901 E. 21st St.
Festivities kick off with a parade and opening ceremony on Saturday. The parade is open to all groups who fill out an entry form and whose members buy a button. Line up starts at 9:30 a.m. at the parking lot near the KMUW at 17th and Holyoke, and the parade begins at 11 a.m. The route goes down 17th Street to McAdams Park, where the opening ceremony will take place at 12:30 p.m.
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“The parade is one of the highlights, so exciting … it’s really when you see the talent, creativity, and diversity of our community,” Stovall said. “There are so many great floats. It’s not just African-Americans who participate. We have several Hispanic and Asian organizations who will be marching with us this year. It’s a true community celebration.”
While fundraising has not gone as well as organizers had hoped, Stovall said that this year’s event will not be scaled back from last year, though they were not able to secure any national performing acts. He noted that several new elements will be in place, including seminars about horticulture and planting, a basketball tournament, and family fun activities that encourage young people to read.
Another new element is the inclusion of the now defunct Wichita Walk Against Gang Violence. A lack of funding shelved the event this year, but Stovall and others worked with organizers to incorporate elements of it into the festival’s parade. There will also be programs throughout the weekend that center on gang violence prevention, crime reduction, and how to build positive community relationships that prevent crime from occurring. Stovall said these sorts of programs are part of the Black Arts Festival’s goal of being in the community year-round.
In addition to the usual mix of food vendors, famous barbecues and retail booths, there will also be a full program of activities each day.
“The arts are the primary focus of the weekend,” Stovall said. “We have a lot of visual artists there – everything from sketch artists, to painting, to caricature artists. We also have a lot going on in terms of our live music. We have a DJ battle that will be going on, some fashion shows, and also dancers. The atmosphere is always fun. Our crowds are great.”
If you go
46th annual Wichita Black Arts Festival
When: Regular festival hours for food and vendors noon-9 p.m. Saturday-Monday; Unity Parade, 11 a.m. Saturday
Where: McAdams Park, 1329 E. 13th St. in Wichita. Festival parade lines up at 17th and Holyoke and goes down 17th Street to McAdams Park.
How Much: Admission buttons are $3 and can be purchased at the event.
For a full schedule of events: http://www.shout.lt/B2kL
Youth design corner: 1-8 p.m. daily
Family Fun in the Sun: 2-5 p.m. daily
Talent competition: 2-3 p.m.
Political corner: 3 p.m.-9 p.m.
Talent showcase: 7-9 p.m.
Praise in the Park: 3-5 p.m.
Senior luncheon: 2-4 p.m.
Talent showcase: 5-9 p.m.
Fashion show: 1-2:30 p.m.
Teen summit: 4-5 p.m.
Battle of the bands: 6-7:30 p.m.
Youth dance: 6-9 p.m.