Cardinal Park is celebrating Juneteenth with a day of music, performance and good food.

The festivities are scheduled to take place on June 19 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Brownson Memorial Presbyterian Church awarded Cardinal Park with the “Bold Initiative Grant” to fund the event, and the church will be offering free hourly shuttle rides from its parking lot. Entrance to the event is also free.

Known as “Freedom Day,” Juneteenth has been celebrated since 1865 and honors the emancipation of enslaved people following the Civil War.

Visitors to the Cardinal Park celebration can expect to hear speeches from local leaders, including previous N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, who was also the first Black woman to be elected to North Carolina office without a governor’s appointment.

Mitch Capel, owner of Cardinal Park, will take to the stage and share some of his award-winning storytelling skills, with a historical bent for the occasion. An award ceremony is planned to recognize people in the community who’ve gone the extra mile to help others.

“The event will be about people coming together again,” said Capel, “for a day of reconciliation after turbulent times.”

There will be plenty of music too, from African drumming and dancing, to a collaboration throwback band that is scheduled to perform from 5-8 p.m. Vendors and food trucks will be on the scene, with free soda and water. Cardinal Park’s cook, Gregory Jones, will have all of his signature eats, ranging from ribs to burgers and more.

The park is the perfect spot to celebrate Juneteenth, Capel said. “It is a historic place, built in 1962 by my parents. They set it up for underprivileged kids.”

A labor of love, the place was put together by his mother Jean Capel and her husband, local Civil Rights icon Felton Capel. When it first opened in the 1960s, few public amenities were available to the Black community, particularly swimming spots. For generations now, the park has been a place for reunions and celebrations between family and friends. It has been used for weddings, church services and baptisms. 

After Capel’s father passed away, Cardinal Park closed. In 2019, it opened its gates for the first time in years. Capel told The Pilot in a previous interview that it was a “now or never” situation for him and the park. Despite his award-winning career as a writer and performance artist, a job with American Airlines, and countless other responsibilities, he decided he couldn’t let the park continue falling into disrepair. 

Today, the park has undergone renovation and additions, including newly cleared land, a large sand beach, and a lakeside shelter for shade and refreshments. Capel says they are on the way to adding an RV track, and that the park’s motel will soon be opening up.

The park is run by Capel, who is both owner and manager; Reggie Brower, assistant manager; Gregory Jones, the park’s cook; Stephanie Ferguson, event and program coordinator; and Pauline Ross, the park’s promoter.

No tickets will be required for the Juneteenth event. Firearms are not allowed on the premises, but pets are welcome. For more details and questions, visit the park’s new website or reach out to Mitch Capel at (910)494-0696.

 

Contact Mary Moore at mmoore@thepilot.com

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