WATERLOO — The convergence of the KBBG parade, the North End Music and Arts Festival and Marching Against the Darkness drill team competition brought a lot of people to Furgerson-Fields Park Saturday.
The festival started 11 years ago, but “this is our first time here at this site,” said Felicia Smith-Nalls, one of its organizers. It is also one of the first years organizers have coordinated so the parade and drill team competition happen on the same day as the festival.
“It kind of worked out for us,” said Smith-Nalls. She noted the event has grown from past years as a musical act prepared to perform on the stage, people checked out booths and lines formed at food vendors. “I’m hoping to get bigger every year.”
Organizers said funding from the city of Waterloo, the Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa and the Black Hawk County Gaming Association were essential to event’s success this year. The coordinated approach to the day’s events also effectively delivered people to the park.
“That’s where the parade has been helpful, funneling people into it,” said Al Hayes, another festival organizer.
KBBG, a radio station located in the northern part of Waterloo, organized the parade, which followed East Fourth and Sumner streets before ending at the park along Onedia Street. Entries included schools, businesses, community agencies and other organizations.
But the whole parade moved to the beat of the drums and dancers in more than a half-dozen drill teams from across the Midwest. Along with Waterloo’s own Union Baptist Crusaders, there were teams from Minneapolis, Kansas City, Mo., Omaha, Neb., and Michigan City, Ind. The teams held an exhibition after arriving at the park and competed Saturday evening in the gym at East High School.
Wilhemina Hynes said coming to the parade is a tradition for her. She was sitting along Onedia with her 5-year-old daughter, Janiyah, and a niece and nephew.
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“I’ve been coming to the KBBG parade for years,” she said. “As an African American, this is our own parade, the KBBG parade. It’s nice seeing the youth and the different parts of the community supporting us as African Americans.”
Hynes said they would be heading up the street once the parade was done to see the drill teams, listen to music and eat.
“We doing the community thing all day,” she said. “It’s going to be a beautiful, beautiful day.”
The North End festival began at Jubilee United Methodist Church and was held at a number of locations over the years, including Sullivan Park last year. It reflects Waterloo’s black community, which is anchored in this part of the city. Smith-Nalls emphasized, though, that it encompasses all of the residents from the North End.
“The cool part is North End isn’t just one part (of the city),” she said. “It’s the people. We always want to reflect what the North End looks like.”
Lucy Ostlund had been to the KBBG parade in the past, but never the North End festival. She came with her 11-year-old daughter, a Central Middle School student, and her 18-year-old son, an East High School football player, because they were both in the parade.
“This is awesome,” she said of the festival. They stopped at several vendors, buying some jewelry and getting her son registered to vote, before going to the Youth Art Team booth. “Now my daughter’s getting her portrait drawn.”
While Ostlund waited, she was watching for one of the musical acts to start on the nearby stage. “We’ll be down here for a while,” she said.