INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Black Expo’s (IBE) Summer Celebration musical heritage festival drew hundreds to downtown Indianapolis on Friday, bringing people together for a free concert.
The crowd of attendees lined the American Legion Mall from the area near Michigan Road, where the stage was set up, to the Indianapolis Public Library on St. Clair Street.
“We are thrilled that this event is inclusive,” said Regina Marsh, who works with Amp Harris Productions. “It’s about fairness, it’s about all of us here together, having fun and having a really positive night.”
A rainy afternoon didn’t deter the crowd, delighted to be back for IBE’s first summer gig in several years. The volunteer-run event was free for everyone, unless people decided to purchase VIP tickets.
“We had a little rain, a little rain here and there,” Marsh said. “But we are here.”
The lawn began to fill up hours in advance as people waited to see legendary entertainer Patti LaBelle, singer Monica and Indianapolis’ own R&B group, After 7.
“With the world we live in these days, I mean, we have to have fun,” said Trevon McGuire, a viewer who came to the show with his family. He said it had been about a decade since the last BIE summer celebration he had attended.
“It’s just a different environment. Everyone can get together and have fun. It’s something I don’t want to pass up,” McGuire said.
The volunteers behind the event said it was about bringing people from all walks of life together to celebrate and enjoy the night together, entertained by big names in music.
“It’s an opportunity for people of all races, all nationalities, all communities to come out and be together for great music,” Marsh said.
Marsh said Summer Celebration 2022 is much more important than just the concert. Over a period of 10 days, it is one of the largest cultural events of its kind in the country and includes events that promote entertainment, arts, dance, food, film, business and more.
“We also have the education conference that just took place this week. We have a business conference that just took place this week. We recognized contractors in the city of Indianapolis,” Marsh said.
Setting up production for Friday alone, however, is a huge undertaking in itself. Marsh credited the work of the IBE team, the people who work to coordinate the production, the VRs for the talent, the staging and of course, those who make it possible to host the event and do it safely. .
“The city of Indianapolis has stepped up and performed on behalf of this organization. The state is here, the crowd is cheering, everyone is doing their part to make this the most wonderful night,” said Marsh.
Agencies that worked to keep crowds safe Friday night included the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, Indiana State Police, Marion County Sheriff’s Office, Indianapolis EMS and the Indianapolis Fire Department, among others.
“When we do a slightly larger event in Circle City, like the Indy 500, Brickyard, Circle City Classic or IBE, we want to make sure we have extra resources to make people feel safe,” said IMPD Officer William Young.
The agency is also setting up its Emergency Response Group (ERG) to help keep crowds safe. Young said the extra resources for major events in Indianapolis don’t preclude any district from staffing and keeping the community safe.
In addition to coordinating with other agencies at the concert site, Young said it gave officers a chance to interact with people, not just on the enforcement side but as neighbors in the community.
This is particularly important as WISP continues to work to grow its team, with a major recruitment drive underway and continued efforts to diversify the department.
“When we talk about diversity, we’re not just talking about African Americans. This means women, Hispanic individuals; it means a multitude of things so that we can engage our African American community and a multitude of people here,” Young said.
The event took place on Friday evening, but the BIE continues its summer celebration until July 17.
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