Rondo Days Celebration

Rondo Days Celebration

Date Observed: Third weekend in July
Location: St. Paul, Minnesota

The Rondo Days Celebration in St. Paul, Minnesota, is an annual African-American sponsored multicultural event on the third weekend in July. It seeks to promote a sense of community, stability, and neighborhood values.

Historical Background

Rondo Avenue in St. Paul was created in the 1850s. The area encompassing it quickly became a melting pot for immigrants from Italy, Sweden, and Russia, as well as from other nations. However, by the 1930s and 1940s, more and more incoming residents were transplanted African Americans from the South who came to view this area as their own geographic haven. Described as vibrant and vital, the predominantly black Rondo community was in many ways almost an island refuge, the center of St. Paul's largest black residential neighborhoods.

In the early 1960s, Interstate Highway 94 was built through the area. The freeway disrupted the cultural, economic and social balance of St. Paul when it essentially erased Rondo. Thousands of African Americans were displaced from not only their physical residences but also from their close-knit community, their sense of belonging and place. A large chunk of history was destroyed along with the destruction of this legendary neighborhood. The lives of people were affected in numerous ways as they were thrust into a discriminatory housing market in a racially segregated city.

Creation of the Festival

In 1982, a small group of St. Paul residents met to discuss ways in which they might try to resurrect the values of the razed Rondo neighborhood and expand its spirit throughout the greater St. Paul community. The following year, Rondo Avenue, Inc., a non-profit association, was created and the first celebration was held that very year. Rondo Avenue's mission is to provide a forum and foundation for promoting and developing good family ties and entrepreneurship throughout minority communities within Minnesota's Twin Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis. It attends to the young and old, the impoverished, and, especially, the under-served citizen. In addition to the annual Rondo Days Celebration, the organization offers a full spectrum of programs to the community, including an Art Fair with the African American Cultural Center Black Arts Festival, Miss Black Minnesota Pageant, Jazz Outside in Martin Luther King Park, and many others.

Observance

Planning for the Rondo Days Celebration begins early; weekly community meetings are held each May through July. The first festival in 1983 drew about 25,000 people, and that number has much more than quadrupled in the succeeding years. As the largest AfricanAmerican sponsored festival in Minnesota, it is, however, a multicultural event that celebrates all people, art, music and foods.

Thursday evening begins with a Senior Social to honor the community's elderly population. Friday night's schedule includes a Gala Opening for adults only, complete with music and food. Saturday kicks off with the annual parade, typically with hundreds of entrants. The parade route ends at the festival grounds, host to the Car Show and Gospel/Jazz Fest - a misnomer, actually, since music as diverse as Asian and Mexican can be heard until the weekend draws to a close. There are also other types of live entertainment, merchants and vendors of all sorts, dance and drill team competitions and exhibitions, and the other kinds of fun that participants would expect to find at a "neighborhood" festival.

Contacts and Web Sites

Minnesota Historical Society 345 W. Kellogg Blvd. St. Paul, MN 55102 651-296-6126

Rondo Avenue, Inc. 1360 University Ave., #140 St. Paul, MN 55140 651-646-6597

Further Reading

Boyd, Melissa D. "Remembering Rondo." Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), July 20, 2001. Fairbanks, Evelyn. The Days of Rondo. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1990.

Rondo Days Celebration

Third week of July
The Rondo Days Celebration launched in 1983 as a showcase for the rich African-American culture and heritage of the Rondo community in St. Paul, Minn. Rondo, the city's vibrant, predominantly black neighborhood, was destroyed and its people displaced in the 1960s by the construction of the I-94 freeway. Recreating the energy and spirit of Rondo and bringing together former residents and other Minnesotans and visitors was the inspiration for the celebration's founders, Marvin "Roger" Anderson and Floyd Smaller. The celebration is now run by a non-profit organization.
The event takes place during the third week of July in St. Paul. A celebration of multi-cultural food, art, music, and activities, it now draws up to 35,000 visitors a year. Other highlights include a community parade, a free dinner honoring the community's senior citizens, and a five-kilometer fun walk and run. There also is an annual, hotly contested drill-team competition drawing squads from across the country.
CONTACTS:
Rondo Ave. Inc.
651-646-6597
www.rondoaveinc.org
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