Iowa Citians flock to Chauncey Swan Park for Juneteenth celebration

Downtown at Sundown was held at Chauncey Swan Park on Friday, as Johnson County residents flooded the streets to celebrate the anniversary of the slaves’ emancipation.


Jerod Ringwald

Attendees model a shirt reading “Strong Black and proud,” during ‘Downtown at Sundown’ for a Juneteenth celebration in Iowa City on Friday, June 17, 2022. Iowa City community members celebrated with music, games, vendors, and a fashion show.

Sam Knupp and Mason Tan

Iowa Citians flocked to Chauncey Swan Park for the Downtown at Sundown celebration.

The celebration featured a variety of vendors selling everything from t-shirts to keychains to soul food. Iowa City citizens, along with local lawmakers filled the area in support of the Juneteenth celebration.

The event picked up steam as the night went on and was headlined by a fashion show, words from Mayor Bruce Teague, and an Earth, Wind, and Fire cover band from Chicago called New Shining Star.

Juneteenth first originated during the 1860s in Galveston, Texas, celebrating the emancipation of Black slaves in the United States and was made a federal holiday in June 2021.

Mayor Bruce Teague took the stage around 8:00 p.m. and complimented the vendors and local officials taking part in the event.

“The meaning of Juneteenth is an opportunity for us all to come together and celebrate as a people and also to celebrate that great day when we really did become free,” he said. “So I’m super excited for you all to be here.”

Teague continued by complimenting the fashion show and encouraging attendees to support the vendors.

Stephanie Carter, a vendor running a souvenir booth, said the increased attention Juneteenth has received in the past couple years can help more people recognize the hardships people in the Black community face.

“We still have racial incidents, but this should help,” Carter said. “This should help a lot.”

Angela Saunders, a Cedar Rapids resident who was running the souvenir booth with Carter, said Iowa City has one of the more supportive communities when it comes to the fight for racial equality.

“The support in Iowa City is definitely different,” Saunders said. “Everyone is like a family coming out to support each other.”

Jean Berry, an Iowa City resident whose art was on display at the event, said events like this allow people to become more familiar with black culture.

She said the happiness of the occasion creates a relaxed environment where people are able to enjoy themselves.

Samantha Booth, one of the street vendors said the awareness and discussion about African American voices has been raised greatly.

“Because of all the Black Lives Matter [protests], the community has been totally different,” Booth said.

Iowa City City Councilor Janice Weiner said it’s important for people to recognize the history of the United States and the celebration of Juneteenth can play a role in that.

“Having a holiday like this — I think it means a huge amount,” she said. “People get educated, they bring their families out, it’s a celebration. And people start to understand what Juneteenth is all about, and why it’s so meaningful.”

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