Date Observed: Last Saturday of July
Location: Chicago, Illinois

Ghanafest is a festival of thanksgiving that celebrates the heritage of Ghanaians in the metropolitan Chicago area. It has been held in various incarnations since 1987.

Historical Background

The Ghana Club of Chicago (GCC) is a socio-economic organization that has, over the years, come to be an umbrella group for the various peoples from Ghana who live in the Chicago area. In 1987 the GCC joined with the Ga-Dangme community (an expatriate ethnic group from Ghana) to co-celebrate the Ga-Dangme Homowo Festival of Thanksgiving. This communal celebration was successful and had a broad-based appeal across the Ghanaian community. The decision was made to repeat the event and seek funding and support from the city of Chicago. A grant was received, and in 1988, monies, tents, toilets, parking space, other forms of sponsorship were provided. In addition, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley himself made an appearance at that year's Homowo celebration (see also Homowo Festival in Portland, Oregon).

In 1989 GCC negotiated with the Okupaman Association (which represented another Ghanaian ethnic group) to merge the Homowo celebration with the Odwira festival. In doing so, they sought to create a "Ghanaian Durbar" - a gathering that is rather like a rulers' court with music and dance, ceremonies to honor ancestors, and opportunities to unify the people. This merger furthered the recognition of the festival, and it began to draw more attention on the local, national, and international levels.

Creation of the Festival

In 1990 the Ghanaian organizations met and agreed to expand the festival to represent all Ghanaian ethnic groups. GCC Vice-Chairman A. C. Eddie-Quarterly coined "Ghanafest" as the all-inclusive title that would be used from that time forward.


Beginning mid-morning and lasting until nearly day's end, Ghanafest is rife with the sights, sounds and smells of the native western coast of Africa from which its traditions hail. Local chieftains, queen mothers, their princes, princesses, and other court members parade majestically in opulent regalia. Drums beat out rhythmic melodies. Regional cuisine is dished out as liberally as the hospitality. Both the national anthems of the United States and Ghana are played, reminding attendees of the bonds that cement these two countries. Native-born Americans intermingle with citizens of Ethiopia, Liberia, and Nigeria - some distant, or possibly not too distant, kin. There is dancing and merriment, art and excitement, and, most important of all, thanksgiving for the abundance of the camaraderie of spirit inherent in this annual festival.

Words from the Ghana National Council of Chicago

During the 2002 Ghanafest, Clement Timpo, president of the Ghana National Council of Metropolitan Chicago, noted:

Whatever way one may look at it, as Ghanaians in this Diaspora, our faith, progress and basic economic and socio economic survivals are intricately linked to the progress and stability in Ghana. We therefore share in the dilemma, and the economic and socio economic frustrations and survival of Ghana.

Even though we have been away for far too long, we are still an integral part of Ghana; we have loved ones and relatives at home; we send money to our loved ones and relatives regularly; we help in the local community developments; at our council and affiliate organization meetings, we are always thinking, and concerned with, and deliberating on the developmental progress of local councils and local communities in Ghana.

We are continuously organizing fundraisers for the hospitals, clinics and other local economic infrastructures in Ghana . . . even though we are now part of North America, we! are also an integral part of Ghana.

Contact and Web Site

Ghana National Council of Metropolitan Chicago 4433 N. Ravenswood Ave. Chicago, IL 60640 773-561-5498; fax: 773-271-0335

Further Reading

"Ghanafest 2002 in Chicago." GhanaHomePage Diasporan News, August 1, 2002. http: // Gocking, Rogers. History of Ghana. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2005. Salm, Steven J., and Toyin Falola. Culture and Customs of Ghana. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002.
African-American Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations, 1st ed. © Omnigraphics, Inc. 2007


Last Saturday of July
Ghanafest is a one-day, annual event held on the last Saturday of July and sponsored by the Ghana Club of Chicago and other ethnic associations representing Ghanians in the Chicago area. It attracts about 20,000 participants each year to Chicago's Washington Park. The festival celebrates the history and culture of that west African nation and recognizes the special bond of unity between Ghana and the United States.
Begun in 1987 as the Ga-Dangme Homowo Festival of Thanksgiving, Ghanafest acquired its current name in 1990. The festival includes a Ghanian Durbar, or gathering of the royal court. Chiefs, queens, and elders of the traditional council participate in a royal procession, and Ghanian and American officials and guests give speeches. Entertainers from Ghana perform in a variety of musical styles, and marketplace vendors offer wares ranging from textiles, fine art, and jewelry to foods, including fried fish, Jollof-rice, and okro-soup. The occasion is also used to give community appreciation and achievement awards to notable attendees.
Ghana National Council of Metropolitan Chicago
4433 N. Ravenswood Ave.
Chicago, IL 60640
773-561-5498; fax: 773-271-0335
AAH-2007, p. 183
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.