This year’s Rondo Days Festival was held at Martin Luther King Park on Saturday, July 21.
“It’s like a black family reunion for the community,” said Tyrone Terrill, a St. Paul Department of Human Rights official working at this year’s Rondo Days Festival on July 21. “A lot of people who come here only get to see each other maybe once a year, here at the festival. We can expect anywhere from 15,000-20,000 people showing up here. Some years we have even more.”
The Rondo Days Festival began in the morning with a 5K walk/run, followed by a parade that began at 10 a.m. at St. Peter Claver and progressed to the Martin Luther King Park. At the park, the festival kicked into gear with tables for foods, crafts, and vendors and a stage for live music. The celebration ended in the evening with the highly-anticipated drill team competition at Central High School, featuring competing teams from around the United States.
The founding fathers of Rondo days, Floyd Smaller and Marvin Anderson, who were from Rondo, created Rondo Days 24 years ago. Ever since then, the event has been held on the third weekend in July, bringing current and former members of the community and their families back to remember the past and celebrate getting back together as a community.
In the 1960s, the African-American community living in the Rondo area was broken apart by the creation of Interstate 94. The new interstate meant that many people had to leave their homes and be split from all the people they had lived around and grown up with. Rondo Days was created to remember the community and what happened to it.
Debbie W. has been an attendee for the event on and off for the last 15 years.
“My family had to move, I lived at 94 and Grotto,” said Debbie “A lot of people had to move out of the area, and they come back to see family and the festival. I’m here with my mom.”
As the event happens every year, many people mentioned that the event has changed over the years. While no one went into detail about how the festival has changed, there were comments about less and less of the original Rondo Community returning to the festival every year, and the festival is filled with more of the younger generations, the gathering is more for a festival then for a remembrance.
Another local who has been attending the event on and off as well for the past several years says that it has changed for the better.
“A few years back it was held at some elementary school,”said Calvin Woody. “I think they lost a lot of people because of it. It was too hot, no trees, no shade, no grass. This is much better then it was, since they moved it.”
And the changed seemed to work, because the park’s lawn and sidewalks were packed with cheerful crowds through the entire day.