This weekend, a slate of events celebrating Juneteenth — the holiday that commemorates the emancipation of enslaved Black people in the United States at the end of the Civil War — are taking place across Minneapolis and St. Paul. Juneteenth became a federal holiday in 2021, when President Biden signed legislation making it so. But it actually began on June 19, 1865, when a Union general arrived in Galveston, Texas, to tell African Americans who were enslaved there that the Civil War had ended, and they were free from slavery. (Then-President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had been issued more than two years before, in 1863.) Juneteenth has other names, too, like “Freedom Day,” and “Emancipation Day.” It’s been celebrated in Black communities since the late 19th century — and after nationwide protests for racial justice during the summer of 2020 spiked even greater interest in the holiday, celebrations across the country continue to grow.
The same is true for Minneapolis and St. Paul: This weekend, there are all kinds of Juneteenth celebrations taking place in the Cities. This guide highlights those events where local restaurants and food trucks will have a presence — from film screenings in Minneapolis public parks to block parties (and mini carnivals, no less) on West Broadway. Here’s where to find deep-fried pound cake, Afro-Italian fusion dishes, specialty punches, smothered pork chops, and so much more at the Twin Cities’ Juneteenth celebrations.
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Friday and Saturday
The Minneapolis Parks and Rec Board is hosting a number of Juneteenth events over the weekend. On Friday, June 17, stop by Harrison Park from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. for an evening of dancing, activities, music, and scoops from I Scream Ice Cream. Also Friday, Creekview Park is hosting a showing of the film Summer of Soul, accompanied by a smoky, saucy barbecue from Ralph’s Rib Crib from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. On Saturday, June 18th, vendors Rollin Nolen’s BBQ and House of Refuge — the latter serving fish, chicken, and fries — will be parked at Bethune Park from noon to 6 p.m., for a day of performances by local artists, activities for kids, vendors, and exhibits.
The YMCA is hosting a Juneteenth celebration at St. Paul’s Boyd Park on Saturday from 3 p.m to 7 p.m. Come for music by artists like Jearlyn Steel, Thomasina Petrus, and Beverly Cottman, plus an array of vendors and COVID vaccine and booster clinic. For food, the Y has booked The Kitchen — Home of the Turkey Chop (cheeseburgers, catfish, and turkey chops with fries), Nani’s Sweets (deep-fried pound cake), D’s Kitchen (Vietnamese fare like egg rolls, fried dumplings, and fried rice), and 9-Yum-Yum (ice cream treats).
On Saturday from noon to 6 p.m., the University of Minnesota is hosting its first-ever Juneteenth celebration. The day kicks off with a commemorative parade from Willard Park to Plymouth Avenue’s Robert J. Jones Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center — from there, a block party with roller skating, DJs, performance artists, books, free haircuts, vendors, teach-ins, speeches, storytelling sessions, murals, and art-making will ensue. Food-wise, Sammy McDowell of Sammy’s Avenue Eatery will be there serving his signature clubs and subs, and Nashville Coop, the popular fried chicken spot that launched during the pandemic, will be dishing out devilishly spicy Nashville-style hot chicken. Be sure to stop by Jambo Africa (serving dishes like oxtail, chicken with plantains, and samosas) and save room for double chocolate vegan cookies, S’mores cookies, chai snickerdoodles, and gluten-free toffee dark chocolate oat cookies from Quiet Cat Bakery.
Also on Saturday, Sweet Potato Comfort Pie is presenting its second annual pie bakeoff, with local notables like Lutunji Abram, Gary Hines, Angela Rose Myers Moles, and others as judges. On Lake Street, a day of storytelling with Auntie Beverly, drumming, and music at Midtown Global Market’s Juneteenth celebration is a great reason to grab food from one of MGM’s many fantastic food vendors. Stop and say hi to the folks at Slice, Minneapolis’s first Black-owned pizzeria, as they set up their new spot there. There are Juneteenth celebrations with great food happening in the suburbs, too: The Cave Cafe will be serving its Afro-Italian fusion fare (think lamb tibsie, steak wraps, and vegetarian curry) at Burnsville’s Juneteenth celebration on Saturday. For more metro-area events, check out WCCO’s roundup — and don’t miss sumptuous peach cobbler (both butter-rich and vegan) from Lutunji’s Palate Bakery at Edina’s first Juneteenth celebration on Sunday, June 19.
The West Broadway Block Party hosted by BOB Rewards Club — a marketing company and database for Black-owned businesses — is set to be one of the Twin Cities’ biggest Juneteenth celebrations. The event kicks off the morning of Sunday, June 19 with a Father’s Day brunch catered by food vendors: Stop by for classic breakfast dishes like sausage, eggs, hash browns, pancakes, and waffles. The rest of the day, West Broadway’s food lineup is stacked: Mama Sheila’s House of Soul, known and beloved for its buffet of fried chicken, meatloaf, candied yams, black-eyed peas, and other Southern-style staples, is doing a robust soul food spread. House of Refuge, a local church that specializes in cooking, is serving catfish and chicken baskets, and Momma Rose’s is doing homestyle soul food like smothered pork chops and gravy.
In the barbecue arena, Bam Bams BBQ is bringing Texas-style, wood-smoked meats to West Broadway, and Rollin Nolens BBQ is serving saucy barbecue cuts. Last but not least, Philly Station is dishing out Philly cheesesteaks and shaved ice. BOB’s Rewards Club, meanwhile, has a handful of local vendors selling specialty punch, juices, and other treats. They’re also setting up a mini carnival where kids can make popcorn, cotton candy, and mini doughnuts. Find more details on the event here.
The Hook and Ladder Theater is hosting a Soul of the Southside Juneteenth Festival on Sunday, June 19 from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Beyond the live music, poetry readings, speakers, live art, and Black-owned business marketplace, the festival will also be a hotspot for great food: Official Fried Chicken, which opened just last week on Minnehaha Avenue, will be serving its eminently crispy fried chicken and fries. Don’t miss what Soul Bowl is cooking up either (think soul food combos like mac and cheese, grilled corn, candied yams, and jerk chicken). DuNord Social Spirits, the first Black-owned distillery in the U.S., will also be selling bottled spirits as a vendor.
The Rondo Center of Diverse Expressions is hosting a Juneteenth celebration in the historic heart of St. Paul’s Black community on Sunday, June 19 from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. There’ll be a keynote address from CNN analyst Laura Coates, information booths and exhibits from the MN Science Museum, an award ceremony, and music, dance and spoken word performances. Rondo’s own Logan’s Catfish will be there serving fried catfish, and St. Paul College’s culinary program will be selling red velvet cupcakes.