Be ready to get down with Motown at the 23rd Juneteenth Freedom and Heritage Festival, a three-day event this weekend at the Ogden Amphitheater.
After a day of music, dance and more, Saturday night will culminate in the sounds of The Temptations, The Four Tops, the Supremes and other favorites, as delivered by actor/musician Leon Robinson and Salt Lake City's Soulistics.
"I plan to have my outfit on," said Betty Sawyer, community activist and the Ogden Juneteenth festival's founder and organizer. "I have to find some bell bottoms from someplace!"
Sawyer said the reason for including Motown music is that it is both timeless and universal in its reach -- two things the festival strives to celebrate.
The festival, and the holiday for which it is named, honor June 19, 1865, when the last of the slaves were freed in Galveston, Texas -- 18 months after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. Although it is an African-American tradition, the festival in Ogden has come to be a time the community as a whole comes together to celebrate diversity.
"So, one of the reasons we chose to feature Motown is that we wanted something that connected people of all ages and backgrounds," said Sawyer. "This music tends to remind people of those special feelings or doing those special things in their lifetimes. It's become classic American music."
A family affair
Sawyer likes the mix of bringing in acts from across the nation, such as the hip-hop band H.I.S.D., and offering a stage for local acts. Area step-dance teams and local youth performers will be featured throughout the afternoon on Saturday.
"We use the festival in part for them -- the kids -- to showcase what they are doing, to celebrate pride, and to give family a chance to point to the stage and say, 'That's my baby!' We want to keep that down-home feel to it."
On Sunday, the Salt Lake City Mass Choir will perform. It has become a tradition at Juneteenth to assemble choir members from churches throughout the Ogden and Salt Lake areas and join them as one nondenominational choir for Sunday's gospel celebration at the festival. This year, a number of churches stayed involved year-round and kept the mass choir going.
"They have even taken a couple of trips as a choir to different events, and are looking to record a CD project," said Sawyer. "Though they call it the Salt Lake Mass Choir, they are including singers from all over the valley. We are excited about that, and trying to help them raise the money to do this CD project."
At the festival, the group will have a booth to accept donations for recording expenses.
Sawyer said the festival will include instrumental musicians on Sunday.
"Not as many young people are playing instruments anymore," she said. "There was a time when most parents made their kid at least take piano lessons. Now, that is not even going on. We have many young kids who have not played an instrument at all. Arts in education are also disappearing. So we hope by seeing some young instrumentalists, that younger audience members may be inspired to pick up instruments as well."
As it has in the past, the festival will offer health information to attendees -- as part of its community service vision.
For the past eight years, the festival has included an anti-smoking campaign, which will continue its work in 2012 with information on how to stop smoking and reasons not to start in the first place. Sawyer is also behind Project Fresh Start, which deals with the problems of infant mortality in general, and teen pregnancy specifically.
"We want to bring awareness to staying healthy, and emphasize that it is important to be careful what you do before you ever get pregnant," Sawyer said. "Most pregnancies are not planned, and you want to be in the best health you can.
"But the biggest part of this pregnancy issue at the festival may be the outreach to our young men. We have been doing focus groups with young men, discussing their role as a father. Being able to have those dialogues, using the festival as an opportunity for that, and letting them know there are people to talk to about this subject, is part of what we want to do. After all, if there is a pregnancy, there is a man involved. We need to address that issue."
Friday, June 15
- 6 p.m. — Festival opens, DJ music
- 6:30 p.m. — Kristagong
- 7:30 p.m. — Burnell Washburn
- 8:15 p.m. — Outlaw Nation
- 9:30 p.m. — Chalie 2Na
Saturday, June 16
- Noon — Festival opens, DJ music
- 1 p.m. — Local acts TBA
- 2 p.m. — Opening ceremony
- 2 p.m. — Local acts TBA
- 4 p.m. — Dance troupe
- 4:30 p.m. — Jordan Soul
- 5:20 p.m. —Dance troupe
- 5:45 p.m. — Shaky Trade
- 6:40 p.m. — Dance troupe
- 7 p.m. — Leon Robinson
- 7:15 p.m. — Radio Galaxy
- 8:15 p.m. — H.I.S.D.
- 9:30 p.m. — Salute to Motown, featuring Leon Robinson
Sunday, June 17
- 1 p.m. — Festival opens, DJ music and gospel videos
- 2 p.m. — Father’s Day tribute and graduate recognition
- 2:30 p.m. — Step/mime teams
- 2:50 p.m. — Second Baptist Church Choir
- 3:30 p.m. — Utah Traveler’s Quartet
- 4:50 p.m. — Salt Lake Mass Choir
- 5:40 p.m. — Derryl Barnett, saxophonist
- 6:10 p.m. — Zenobia Smith, the Kansas City songbird, with all choirs invited to join in