By China Boynton
The 21st annual Blues and Sweet Potato Pie Festival Juneteenth celebration was held at Apollo Park, 1580 NW 3rd Ave on Saturday, June 18 by the friends of the Northwest Branch Library. The festival was filled with games, historical culture, a program highlighting local talent, and a sweet potato pie bake-off.
Last year due to COVID the festival was held virtually. This year marks the physical return of the festival. President of Friends of the Northwest Library and event coordinator Felicia Frazier said, “This year has been challenging because of the pandemic. However, just having all of our normal vendors was difficult because some businesses closed and others just weren’t doing the same as they were before the pandemic started.”
Frazier has been chairing the event for eight years and is very excited to see the festival back in action at Apollo Park.
“We have a lot of very excited people that came and showed love and support,” Frazier said.
“Not to mention we had so many great performers like the Ashanti Cultural Arts dancers along with the Gary Palmer Band and the Cross Gospel Singers.”
Ashanti Cultural Arts is a non-profit with programs throughout South Florida. The children that participate in the programs also perform and dance throughout the community for different events.
“This is our fourth year performing and we are so excited to take part in the Juneteenth festival every year,” said Jemilah Jones, Ashanti Cultural Arts’ Artistic Director.
Along with food and music, there were also local businesses like Optum and United Healthcare that wanted to give back to their community.
“We have a mission with our pillars to increase awareness for health and wellness, increase diversity and inclusion and close the gaps on inequities for health,” said Irene Juarez, the employee assistance program specialist for Optum – a health services innovation company.
“This time we wanted to do something extra for the community because Pompano is a wonderful city so we set up a health fair and we’re giving wellness checks to the community,” said Juarez.
Broward Sheriff’s Office also had a booth set up for the celebration to recruit and educate the community on local programs and services provided by the office.
“I think a lot is lost because the police and the community don’t get to interact enough,” said Deputy Aaron Moore who is the neighborhood support deputy for the Pompano Beach district.
“The police, even though we patrol these areas are taking a more proactive approach to truly understand the environment that we’re in,” said Deputy Moore.
The founder and the first president of the Friends of the Northwest library Mary Schofield said that there was a need in this community to help our local libraries so she along with Margeruite Luster started the group.
“There was a need and God supplies our needs, there are so many resources at the library for people to take part in so we’re looking for members and volunteers,” said Schofield.
The winner of the Sweet Potato Pie contest was Pompano Beach resident Taya Montgomery Kirkland who won with her mom Renita Williams’ recipe which she passed on to her daughter.
“Baking is really something that I started during the pandemic and it took off really well in my community,” said Kirkland who owns a bakery business called ‘3 Cutie Pies’ which is inspired by her daughters. She first won in 2019 and now she sits as a two-time champion in the contest.
“After winning the contest people are fans and they’re ready to put their orders in for the fall season,” said Kirkland. “Last year was our biggest year yet at 3 Cutie Pies we did really well so I’m excited to share my pies with the community.”
3 Cutie Pies can be reached on all social media platforms including Instagram @3reecutiepies.