Leimert Park Juneteenth Festival canceled due to rising costs, safety concerns, organizers say

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Friday, June 7, 2024
Leimert Park Juneteenth Festival canceled
Organizers of the Leimert Park Juneteenth Festival announced the cancellation of the festival for 2024 due to lackluster fundraising, rising costs and safety concerns.

SOUTH LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- The public will still be able to celebrate Juneteenth in Leimert Park on June 19 but on a smaller scale.

Organizers of the Leimert Park Juneteenth Festival announced on its website earlier this week the cancellation of the festival for 2024 due to lackluster fundraising, rising costs and safety concerns. Organizers said they could not meet fundraising goals necessary to "ensure a footprint that would be safe and hold the integrity of the event at scale," but pledged that the festival would return in 2025.

"The festival is just resetting herself, so she can come back stronger than ever, better than ever," Alfred Torregano, owner of Still Rising, which produces the festival, told City News Service. "We're meeting, we are discussing and we are organizing."

Texas native Jonathan Leonard moved to Los Angeles and started a tradition of celebrating Juneteenth in 1949, 72 years before it became a federal and California holiday, and will continue the tradition this year.

"Juneteenth is a holiday in which the Leonard family has been assembling families in a picnic-style fashion inside Leimert Park for 75 years," Torregano said. "So, we have a privilege to tack on to what they've doing and turn it into a festival that people could take to the next level.

"We do welcome the community to come out and still celebrate. The businesses on the block will still be open and some vendors too."

Torregano cited the festival's growth as a result of the Black community -- and how they value "our culture, our community and Black joy." He noted the festival has helped small businesses, and the event has generated more than $10 million in the last three years.

"This has become a record selling day for Black businesses in the area. That's why we can host up to 300 to 400 vendors at a time," Torregano said. "It's an important day. This is an intersection of culture and commerce. This is our economic catalyst moment."

As part of the announcement regarding the cancellation, organizers thanked elected officials and sponsors for their support.

"Since assuming full responsibility for the festival's production and logistics in 2020, we have all witnessed the extraordinary growth, reaching an attendance of over 50,000 and an impressive 800,000 live stream views on Amazon Prime last year. However, the rise in permit costs, logistical expenses, and necessary safety measures have surpassed our current budget," the statement read.

Additionally, organizers noted that they needed to provide access control points, and cell and internet services. Torregano said that by having so many people in one place it can create a "service bottleneck," and people need to be able to make calls out.

Torregano said organizers considered moving the stages to Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, but that would require time to come to an agreement with the property owners.

He also felt that the festival should stay in Leimert Park.

Thousands of people were expected to gather in Leimert Park to celebrate Black history, culture and Juneteenth -- the federal holiday commemorating the day in 1865 when enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas, were informed that they were free, marking the end of slavery.

Organizers in their statement noted the event stands as one of the "largest Black community events in the Los Angeles, second only to the Taste of Soul."

"We want to keep it in Leimert Park. That's what makes it special," Torregano said. "But it is a residential neighborhood, and it creates so much impact on these local residents, and so with respect to that, we want to be responsible stewards of community and culture, and we want to make sure that we can do this safely."

Torregano hopes people will donate and help them prepare for next year's festival. Donations can be made at leimertparkjuneteenth.com.