“Imagine a community where a riot of warm colors, feelings and sounds with sight would make one from the rural portions of the South feel at home, or a person from Harlem or State Street feel at ease. Then call it Rondo.” That’s how Roy Wilkens, who grew up in the Rondo community, and later rose to prominence as head of the NAACP described his beloved neighborhood in 1927. And while the name of the community has changed, the sites, sounds and temperament of it remain essentially the same. And that’s one reason why for 27 years – and counting – the Rondo Avenue Festival continues to celebrate its legacy.
Each summer, the Rondo Avenue Festival – if only for a few days – remembers the sites, sounds and temperament of Rondo Avenue, and its surrounding community, in ways that take you back to this special place in time. But, as much as the festival is a celebration of the community’s history, it’s a celebration of the survival of its people and their values – while creating a collective environment, and moment in time, to have a frank dialogue about its current challenges, so that the community can reach its future possibilities. And, this summer’s event promises another unique opportunity to do just that – once again.
Considered one of the largest African American festivals, and destination events – not only the Twin Cities and Midwest – but across the country – this year’s festival intends to deliver on that reputation by keeping pace with the current needs of it’s community members. Over the years, the Rondo Avenue Festival has attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors to its yearly venues. This year’s theme “The Rondo Healthy Lifestyles 365” aims to re-frame Rondo to support the mindset that has become prevalent, not only in the Obama administration, the current federal health care bill, but in each of our collective mindsets. As a result, festival participants can become part of the “Rondo Healthy Lifestyles 365” generation by participating in several new events – and also those events that are tried and true – during the weekend of July 15-18th.
The new “Rondo Healthy Lifestyles Events 365” premise will include the “Rondo Urban Bicycle Festival and National Cycling Summit” that will partner with the Major Taylor Bicycle Club to bring hundreds of riders to the Twin Cities from across the Midwest. The event will be held July 15-17th. Additionally, a “Health and Wellness Tent” located on the festival grounds on July 17th will provide attendees with hands-on information on the best health and wellness options, and information, available. Both new venues provide event goers and participants with an opportunity to get fit quickly, or as organizations, share their health and wellness options and information with event participants and the community at large In addition, those tried-and true annual events like the “Rondo Days 5K Walk and Run” on July 17th, and “Rondo Days Golf Tournament” on July 15th will be returning after successful outings over the past years to give event attendees additional alternative options towards health and wellness.
“When we say “re-framing Rondo,” we are talking about re-framing how we as a community think about our beloved Rondo Community and our lifestyle choices,” said DonEsther Miller, Chair, Rondo Days Festival. “The new “Rondo Healthy Lifestyles Events 365” will celebrate the diversity and strengths of the communities’ people, and educate it’s people on making healthy lifestyle choices for its physical, mental, social and spiritual well being.”
Additionally, the annual signature events that have always celebrated the Rondo legacy will be back. They include: The Annual Senior Dinner on July 15th; and the Grande Parade, the Festival itself, and the “On the Block – Drill and Dance Team Competition” – all on Saturday, July 17th. All events are open to the public – and will be bigger and better than ever.
Remember, the Rondo Avenue Festival is not only a celebration of the Rondo community, but it’s an American celebration of survival – and the ability of not only African Americans – but all Americans – to stand up, shake themselves off, and start over when they need to do so. The construction of the I-94 freeway in the 1960’s, shattered this tight-knit community, eliminating most of its Black businesses, and forcing thousands of African Americans into a segregated city, and discriminatory housing market that neither wanted us next door to them, nor was prepared to live next door to us. But, take note: This “freeway phenomenon occurred across the county – mostly in poor white and Black neighborhoods – setting progress for African Americans, and whites that lived in these communities as well, back years. Whether you grew up here, or grew up somewhere else, we were all affected by this “freeway” phenomenon
So, whether your ties to the Rondo community go back to the turn of the century, or your family moved to the Twin Cities long after Rondo Avenue, and its surrounding community, were erased from the physical landscape in the name of progress, “We All Are Rondo!”
So, what do you say? Don’t you want to be a part of this historical event that celebrates all of our collective history and survival — plus renews all of our commitment to a healthy lifestyle? We hope you do. Keep in mind, deadlines are fast approaching – so we encourage you to act fast. You can become part of this year’s “Rondo Healthy Lifestyles Generation 365” by sponsoring, or participating in, the “Rondo Avenue Golf Tournament,” the “Rondo Avenue Urban Bicycle Festival and National Cycling Summit,” the “Rondo Avenue 5K Walk and Run,” or being a sponsor or vendor of “Rondo Avenue Health and Wellness Tent.”
You can also participate in the festival by attending the “Rondo Avenue Annual Senior Dinner,” or by being a “Rondo Avenue Grande Parade” participant, a “Rondo Avenue – On The Yard Drill Team” participant, or by just attending the festival event – and by being a part of a 27 year-old tradition called the Rondo Day’s Festival.
For more information on how you, or your organization, can become a part of this historical event, visit our website www.rondodays.com, or call the Rondo Hotline at 651-459-1078. And, stay tuned for more news about this year’s specific Rondo Festival events that just might help you make your “final” participation decision. But, we guarantee you this: You will not want to miss your opportunity to be a part of a unique opportunity to celebrate this legacy. So, just go ahead and pencil this historical event into your daily planner right now – as a “must do!” After all, “We all are Rondo!”