Some traditions can’t be stopped even by a pandemic. Such was the case for the 131st Emancipation Day Celebration held in Hutchinson, KS, just 40 miles northwest of Wichita. The annual event, held the first weekend in August, has become a homecoming for many of the town’s former residents with families often planning their reunions around the event, but this year, big family groups seemed to be limited. However, the spirit of the event survived, with most of the usual events going ahead as usual.
This year’s activities kicked off on Thursday evening, July 30, with a viewing of the movie “Just Mercy,” and a keynote speech delivered by Kansas Sen. David Haley, (D-Kansas City). A highlight of that evening was the dedication of the new Chester I. Lewis Plaza and a symbolic march. The Lewis Plaza is in downtown Hutchinson, across from the historic Fox Theater
Lewis, a Hutchinson native, went on to become a lawyer, activist and civil rights icon. The plaza includes a modernistic mural of Lewis and depicting the Dockum Drugstore Sit-In, the first successful lunch counter sit-in in America, conducted by the Wichita NAACP Branch Youth Group. Lewis was the group’s advisor.
Other highlights of the weekend included an evening concert in the park, the annual parade down Main Street, followed by a picnic in the park.