By Shawn Chitnis

DENVER (CBS4) – Businesses in the Five Points neighborhood have struggled to stay open during the pandemic, missing out on major events that bring people out to shop and dine like the Juneteenth Music Festival. The event was virtual last year because of COVID-19 so organizers and local business owners are eager to see a large turnout this weekend.

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“We’re really excited to welcome back our celebration into the Five Points neighborhood after this pandemic,” said Erica Wright, the creative director for Juneteenth Music Festival. “It’s been a year of a lot of vendors not being able to interact with our regular audience so the opportunity that they’re about to have after a whole year not being able to do this celebration is huge.”

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Business owners say these events over one weekend can bring a month’s worth of revenue and it could not come at a more critical time, shops along Welton Street have survived but are barely hanging on in the current economy. It is also a step toward rebuilding the growth Five Points saw right before the pandemic.

“We’re thrilled about having people back in the neighborhood, this is going to be the first big event that’s happened in Five Points since COVID so you know we’re thrilled to have people back, it’s been a real struggle,” said Darren Boyd, one of the brewers at Spangalang. “I think that Five Points, we honestly felt like we were right on the cusp of making a transition and to this becoming one of the most vibrant, exciting neighborhoods in the city just before COVID.”

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While the past 15 months have created a lot of challenges, the time has also helped to raise awareness about Juneteenth and build more support for Black businesses like those in this historic Denver neighborhood. Boyd says he and his business partners acknowledge they stick out in Five Points but they appreciate the outreach given by local leaders, so they want to do their part to support their fellow neighbors.

“They were willing to work with us, a bunch of white guys who moved into Five Points making craft beer, not what you typically think is your way to celebrate Juneteenth, but they’ve embraced us and we’ve embraced the festival,” he told CBS4 on Thursday. “It’s just very exciting for us to get people back here and to you know be able to continue the progress we’ve made in Five Points.”

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As Colorado opens up and the summer begins, Boyd says people should take advantage of the chance to enjoy this large outdoor event and community in need while also celebrating a new American holiday. Spangalang has created a unique brew for Juneteenth each year, it is even available in cans for 2021.

“People have to get out and start supporting these businesses that they feel deep down that they care about, you have to put your money where your mouth is,” he said. “Don’t feel like Five Points isn’t a neighborhood for you, don’t feel like Juneteenth isn’t a festival for you.”

Not only will this be the largest celebration of Juneteenth in Denver history, the food and drink will only complement the live music happening all weekend long. Artists without work for so long will be paid for their performances during the festival. There will also be chances to learn more about the origins of the holiday and discussions about where the country should go from here.

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“In 2020, the celebration for the Juneteenth Music Festival really had to pivot to an online platform, with that what we saw was also a growth in our audience so we’re really excited to welcome them back this year,” Wright told CBS4 on Thursday. “I honestly think that if it wasn’t for COVID-19, and the racial reckoning that this country had after George Floyd’s death that a lot of people wouldn’t have learned about Juneteenth, so I think this year our audience is bigger than ever and our vendors are really expecting to see some people that they’ve never interacted with before.”

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You can find out more about all the activities online.

Shawn Chitnis