North End Arts & Music Festival: Celebrating the Diversity of Waterloo's North End


posted on Thursday, August 1, 2019

The north end has been the entry point for many immigrant populations that now call Waterloo home. It's the place where Italians, Greeks, Croatians, Russians, Germans, African Americans and many others helped lay the foundation for a strong Waterloo to sit atop of. And though they handcrafted the blueprint for a Midwestern marvel by starting businesses and building our infrastructure, they also contributed something much more important: culture. Someone decided it was time to celebrate the most wonderful parts of Waterloo’s culture and thus the North End Arts and Music Festival was born.

Since 2008, the North End Arts and Music Festival has been a jovial celebration of the arts and culture of Waterloo’s north end. Often misrepresented as “the bad side of town,” Waterloo’s north end houses a variety of businesses, cultures, and family values. This festival helps to dispel the notion of the north end as being “dangerous” and celebrate it for what it is: diverse.

The festival has been a place to celebrate all kinds of arts and culture. Dance, song, spoken word, food, drink, and arts and crafts are just a few things you can experience at the festival. It opens Friday at 6:30pm, with a gospel artist showcase, hosted by Waterloo local John Mark Tolbert, at Waterloo East High School. Talents from Waterloo and beyond, including Gabriel Evans, Reatha Phillips, Kenesha Davis, and Taria Jaybre will perform their gospel pieces loudly and proudly. There will also be a performance by If I Can’t Say a Word Mime Ministries from Omaha, Nebraska.

young black man (gospel singer Gabriel Evans) with glasses, brown hair, black jacket and blue t-shirt, on stageAbove: Gospel singer and Waterloo native Gabriel Evans, who will be performing Friday night at the festival's gospel concert. 

Ferguson Fields Park will be filled with energy and emotion from noon to night on Saturday. But before you hit the park, be sure to catch the annual parade by KBBG 88.1FM, the largest African-American owned and operated non-commercial, educational, community radio station Iowa, featuring competitive dancers from around the country and many other groups. The parade will start at 10am on E. 4th and Donald, and will end at noon, in Ferguson Fields as the festival begins.

Musical acts will take to the stage at 12pm and continue into the early evening. Felicia Smith, the Artistic Director of the festival told me she is looking forward to seeing the Omaha group Toonsquad and hearing from the Waterloo Writing Project. There will be many other R & B, blues, and jazz acts throughout the day, including artists Trevell, Brooke Dunn, Ahmad Madlock and the Flavah Band. There will also be food, drink, and fun all day long. Smith told me there will be a variety of eats, from Italian ice to barbequed ribs and donuts. She also noted an important asset to the festival: the resources. Many local non-profits will have informational booths with free resources for attendees to take advantage of.

Below: Waterloo Crusaders Drill Team performing at the My Waterloo Days parade in June of this year.

young girls in red and black uniforms, dancing in the street at a parade

After the festival is over be sure to catch the March Against the Darkness drill team competition back at Waterloo East High School in the gymnasium. See local teams, along with other competitive dance groups, go head to head in an intense performance lineup like you’ve never seen.

This is a family friendly festival and everyone is welcome both days. All the events are free, although the North End Cultural Center appreciates individual contributions, helping hands, and business sponsorships for the annual festival. To donate, support, or volunteer, select the donate tab on the festival’s website.

For a list of other events happening in the Cedar Valley be sure to check out our calendar! 

By: Micah McCutchan, Experience Waterloo

Photos and Information: Felicia Smith, North End Cultural Center and Micah McCutchan, Experience Waterloo

  1. actvities
  2. arts & culture
  3. blues
  4. community
  5. concerts
  6. dance
  7. entertainment
  8. events
  9. family fun
  10. ferguson fields park
  11. festival
  12. food & drink
  13. gospel
  14. history
  15. jazz
  16. kbbg radio
  17. kids
  18. live music
  19. live performance
  20. music
  21. non-profit
  22. north end
  23. outdoor
  24. parade
  25. resources
  26. visual arts
  27. waterloo
  28. waterloo writing project
  29. youth art team
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