The Eiteljorg’s Fourth Annual Juneteenth Community Celebration

The Eiteljorg’s Fourth Annual Juneteenth Community Celebration

On Saturday, June 16, the Eiteljorg will celebrate Juneteenth (also called Freedom Day) with music, food and fun for the whole family. This annual celebration of freedom is held to commemorate the announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas 153 years ago in June of 1865, at the end of the Civil War.

For Alisa Nordholt-Dean, the public programs director at the Eiteljorg, the best part of the Juneteenth celebration is the community atmosphere. “Everybody’s excited, everybody’s having a good time,” she said. “There’s something for everyone – whether it be families who are drawn in by the hands-on activities and musical performances or those more interested in the scholarly information provided. It’s just a lot of fun.”

The celebration kicks off at 11 a.m., with an explanation of the holiday and reading of the Emancipation Proclamation and General Orders by an Abraham Lincoln reenactor. Following the opening remarks, music, activities and fun will begin inside and outside the museum.


Near the canal, the stage under The Sails will feature musical performances for the duration of the celebration. Tamara Winfrey Harris, author of The Sisters are Alright and a former Eiteljorg vice president of communications and marketing, will emcee as various musicians take the stage. Among the performers will be The Griot Drum Ensemble and Freetown Village Singers, both crowd favorites.

New to the stage this year is Premium Blend, a local jazz group featuring saxophonist Jared Thompson, guitarist Ryan Taylor, drummer Brian Yarde and keyboardist Steven Jones. Known for their high energy and unique adaptations of jazz standards, the band is on the forefront of modern jazz in Indianapolis.

“I’m really excited about Premium Blend. We try to switch things up each year, and they’re an awesome addition,” Alisa said.

Something new is happening inside the museum as well. To coincide with The Reel West exhibition, Juneteenth is introducing the Harlem Goes West Film Series to its programming. The set of three Westerns features the contributions of African-Americans to the genre. The films will be shown inside Clowes Court beginning at 10:20 a.m. June 16 with The Bronze Buckaroo (1939, NR, 56 minutes), followed by Sergeant Rutledge (1960, NR, 111 minutes), and concluding around 3:45 p.m. with Buck and the Preacher (1972, PG, 102 minutes).

While performers take the outside stage and Westerns are playing indoors, other Juneteenth programming events are ongoing throughout the day. Outside in the Kincannon Learning Circle will be hands-on activities and a gold panning station for guests to test their luck. Near The Sails, a chuck wagon, or Western “field kitchen,” will be cooking samples of authentic cowboy food. The Indianapolis Black Cowboys Association will be close by with a horse that guests can pet and feed.


Inside, a tour of The Reel West Gallery will be held highlighting the roles of African-American actors in the Western film genre. At 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. in the Art of the West Gallery, actor-interpreter Joanna Winston will perform in character as noteworthy African-Americans Western entertainers such as Jim Beckwourth, Mary Fields and Nat Love. Eagle Commons will be the venue for various community groups and a Community Wall with a prompt “What Does Freedom Mean to You?” where everyone is welcome to share comments.


Museum admission is free for the celebration along with free parking in the White River State Park underground garage while available, giving everyone access to Juneteenth programming and the museum exhibitions. We hope you will join us in our celebration of freedom.