OUS first Culture & Heritage Festival to take place in June

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Will celebrate region’s history

On Saturday, June 17, Ohio University Southern in Ironton will host the inaugural Culture & Heritage Festival, featuring live music, a theatrical performance, and more. 

The festival will take place from noon–7 p.m. leading up to the Juneteenth holiday. It is part of the Appalachian Freedom Heritage Tourism Initiative, which celebrates the history of the Underground Railroad in Appalachian communities.

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Opening ceremonies will include presentation of colors from Boy Scout Troop 106, followed by the National Anthem performed by the Ironton High School Varsity Singers and remarks from local leaders.

Music will kick off at 12:30 p.m. with Renee Stewart band from southeast Ohio, a band blending lyrical honesty with rock and roll roots. Robert Lomax, who enjoys using his tenor voice singing spirituals, gospel and contemporary Christian music, will follow at 1:30 p.m. Honey Dipped, a team of experienced musicians and performers who are passionate about creating unforgettable experiences for their audience, will take the stage at 2:30 p.m., wrapping up the musical performances for the day.

Following the live music, attendees can view a theatrical performance at 5 p.m. in the Bowman Auditorium. “Juneteenth: A Celebration of Historical Legacies,” was written and directed by Belinda Brown, of Ironton. The performance features actors from the Tri-State area and is a tribute to African Americans who have made contributions to our country.

“We’re bringing some inspiring characters to life,” said Brown. “Our whole goal is to educate, enlighten and inspire. The characters are African American, but everybody can see themselves in these people.”

One of the characters highlighted in the performance will be Harriett Tubman. “She’s one of my favorites, I’ve read 50,000 things about her. But doing research, I learned more,” said Brown. “I didn’t know that she was a suffragette, she fought for women’s right to vote. She was a veteran. She was the first woman to lead an expedition and be a spy in the Union Army. She led so many people to freedom, she is just an inspiration.”

In addition to well-known historical figures, local figures will be highlighted. 

“It’s not just people that you might’ve seen in TV, might’ve read in a book. That’s your neighbor up there, your cousin… If they can do it, you can too,” said Brown. “We’re trying to put pride in our people and in our community, to inspire us to plant the seeds and let them grow.”

Juneteenth, celebrated June 19 each year, marks the country’s second Independence Day. Although Juneteenth has long been celebrated in the African American community, this monumental event remains largely unknown to most Americans. Annually, starting in June 2021, Ohio University celebrates this occasion with programming and activities.

Community organizations and vendors are invited to table and offer services during the festival. There is no charge to set up, and the deadline to register is Monday.

For more information, visit ohio.edu/southern/culture-and-heritage-festival.

The Culture & Heritage Festival is made possible by a POWER Grant received from the Appalachian Regional Commission in partnership with the Lawrence Economic Development Corporation and nearly 20 other partners across 9 counties in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia.