One weekend, every August since 2014, the banners come out, the parade begins marching, the music starts, and the dancers fill High Street in downtown Chestertown. This year, August 19th, marks the 10th anniversary of Legacy Day, celebrating the historic and continuing contributions of African Americans to the life and culture of Kent County.
In recognition of the landmark, this year’s celebration will look back at the festivities and historical themes of the past nine years, with a special tribute to Airlee Ringgold Johnson, Legacy Day’s indispensable leader from the beginning.
Legacy Day is produced by Sumner Hall with the Historical Society of Kent County. This is a community sponsored event with contributions from numerous businesses, institutions, and organizations. All events are free and open to the public. Due to space limitations or provided meals, some events, as noted, require advance registration on Sumner Hall’s website: www.sumnerhall.org.
On Monday, July 31st, an exhibit will open at the Bordley History Center, 301 High Street. This will remain open the entire month of August, and includes many photos and artifacts of past Legacy Day celebrations. The Bordley Center will have extended hours during Legacy Day weekend; it will be open from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, August18th and from 10 a.m. to 3 p,m. on Saturday, August 19th. Also, Chestertown River Arts will host a Legacy Day Exhibit of African American artists during August at its River Arts Gallery at 200 High Street, with support provided by Peaceful World Enterprises. Exhibit hours will be Friday, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sunday, noon to 3 p.m.
On Friday, Aug. 18th, at 5:30 p.m., the Kent Cultural Alliance is hosting Looking Forward: Art & History in Kent County, at 101 Spring Ave. This exhibit includes artwork by five Kent County African-American artists. At the opening reception, there will be a 30-minute film featuring the artists. The exhibit will remain open until September 1st.
At 7 p.m. on Friday, the Garfield Center for the Arts will be the venue of a reception in honor of all the volunteers who have taken part in previous Legacy Day celebrations, as well as a look back at the business, educational, military, sports, and musical themes of the past 10 years. Following the reception, DJ Real will host a street dance party beginning at 8 p.m. in front of the theater. Light refreshments and drink will be served. This Friday reception and dance are free and open to all.
Saturday, August 19th, features a full program of events, beginning at 9 a.m. at Minary’s Dream Alliance, 9155 American Legion Drive, with a kayak/canoe paddle (lunch included) on Morgnec Creek led by Sultana Educational Foundation, for young people ages 12 and up. Space is limited for this event, so please register in advance on the Sumner Hall website. At 10 a.m., Saturday, Emmanuel Episcopal Church will be the venue for a free genealogy workshop led by Erwin Polk, the V.P. of Genealogy for the Delaware Chapter of the Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society, Inc. Lunch is included in this event; those who wish to participate need to register in advance. This genealogical workshop is co-sponsored by the Bookplate.
Also, from 10 a.m. to 12 a.m. Saturday, there will be activities for children at Riverarts Kidspot, 315 High Street and at 12 noon Saturday, you can enjoy a cruise along the Chester River on Schooner Sultana, departing from the town dock at the foot of Cannon Street. Please register in advance for this event; space is limited. Be sure to arrive promptly – you don’t want to miss the boat! On Saturday at 2 p.m., Janes Church at 120 S. Cross St. hosts a soul-stirring gospel concert featuring the Mount Olive Praise Team. This concert is free and open to the public.
Saturday afternoon, the Legacy Day parade kicks off at 4 p.m., heading down High Street from the Dixon Valve property. Antique autos, marching units, and numerous community groups will be taking part. Food and craft vendors will set up along the 200 block of High Street, with the reviewing stand between Stam Hall and Memorial Park. Following the parade, around 5 p.m., DJ Real entertains with dance music followed by the dynamic sounds of Best Kept Soul. There will be dancing in the street until 9 p.m. – a great way to celebrate the rich history and culture of Kent County’s African American community!
Sunday, August 20th, offers one final event. At 9 a.m., join Washington College’s Starr Center team for a walking tour of African American Historic Sites in downtown Chestertown, beginning at the Starr Center, 101 Water St. Anyone who plans to attend this event should register in advance on Sumner Hall’s website: www.sumnerhall.org.