Denver Juneteenth celebration in Five Points mixes history, tradition, politics

The annual Juneteenth Music Festival in Denver.
Ne’ajah West, 13, center, warms up with her fellow Queens and Kings of Dynasty Dance team before setting out on the parade route. The annual Juneteenth Music Festival takes place in the Historic Five Points Neighborhood on June 16, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Kathryn Scott/Special to The Denver Post)

A caravan of food trucks lined Welton Street in Five Points on Saturday morning, mingling with a long line of easy-up canopies and traditional food stands.

Despite overcast skies and intermittent showers, locals and visitors roamed the street in search of the perfect barbecue while vendors chatted up customers and sold merchandise. However, the annual Juneteenth festival began long before grills were prepped for customers.

At Manual High School, a half mile east on East 26th Avenue, Juneteenth kicked off at 11 a.m. with its parade. This year’s theme was “The Wakanda Experience,” honoring Marvel’s box-office hit “Black Panther.” People lined both sides of the street as youth dance troupes and music groups, dressed in colorful African tunics, performed. Participants jumped out of line to greet friends on the sidewalks.

Attendees, however, also witnessed a heightened political presence. Gubernatorial candidates Cary Kennedy, Mike Johnston and Jared Polis joined the parade, alongside several other congressional and state hopefuls.

“It’s great to be here celebrating the African-American community,” Kennedy said. “I graduated from Manual High School, so I’m coming home today.”

Campaign signs were plentiful, and volunteers asked onlookers to sign petitions…

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