2nd Street Festival returns to Jackson Ward, celebrates Richmond culture

A crowd fills a block in Jackson Ward during the last performance at the 2nd Street Festival. Photo by Megan Lee

Mackenzie Meleski, Contributing Writer

The 2nd Street Festival made its return to Richmond on Oct. 2-3, after a yearlong hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Richmond’s historic Jackson Ward neighborhood.

The festival, and its location in Jackson Ward, has been a local tradition for 33 years. This year the two-day event included live music, along with a variety of food vendors, a marketplace and Artists Row for attendees to shop at. The Richmond Metropolitan Antique Car Club was also present and vintage car owners displayed their customized vehicles along Marshall Street.

“Our family has been coming to the festival for years,” festival-goer Sarah Robinson said. “We love the music and getting to see our friends.”

Jackson Ward, which is considered by many residents to be “the Harlem of the South” and the birthplace of African American entrepreneurism, is a historically Black neighborhood. Throughout its history, it has been a safe haven for Richmond’s Black community to practice creativity through art and music, according to Venture Richmond

The event was organized by Venture Richmond, the nonprofit also responsible for the Richmond Folk Festival and Dominion Energy Riverrock. Venture Richmond is an organization that promotes tourism in Richmond and organizes events. Mayor Levar Stoney is the president of the organization, according to their website.

The festival organizers strive for the goal to “celebrate the rich culture of the historic Jackson Ward neighborhood,” according to the website.

“We are proud to host an eclectic mix of some of the city’s most exciting events,” Venture Richmond’s website stated.

Although proof of COVID-19 vaccination was not required upon entry, a vaccination station was set up on the corner of 1st Street and Marshall Street; on Oct. 1, festival attendees could be vaccinated the day before the festival. Online registration in advance was required in order to be vaccinated.

The festival was able to return this year with precautions. Festival organizers asked all guests to adhere to the Virginia Department of Health’s COVID-19 safety guidelines. Guests were not required to wear masks due to the festival’s outdoor setting. They were, however, recommended when in areas where crowds were more congested. Guests were also encouraged to maintain social distancing. 

According to the VDH, large outdoor gatherings are medium-low risk for COVID-19. While the risk of transmission is lower than with indoor events, due to the high volume of the crowd there is still a chance of transmission when proper safety precautions are not taken. The risk of transmission lowers when people are fully vaccinated, wear masks and keep a safe distance from others. The VDH recommends that all people get vaccinated and continue to practice social distancing. 

“I really love seeing everyone outside and celebrating together,” VCU student and festival-goer Madison Cox said, “it’s really special after being in quarantine for so long.”

This year’s festival featured Richmond-based musicians such as Plunky & Oneness, Nathan Mitchell and Mighty Joshua. 

Plunky & Oneness, a jazz duo based in Richmond, is one of several musicians returning to the festival. Plunky & Oneness has performed at the 2nd Street Festival for the past fifteen years. This year, they were the headlining act. The jazz duo is composed of J. Plunky Branch and P. Muzi Branch, according to their website

“We’re really looking forward to coming back this year,” J. Plunky Branch said. “It’s been great to see the festival grow over the years.”

The vendors at the festival comprised of local creators and artists, and many were Black-owned small businesses. Food vendors included Mama J’s Kitchen, Chef Mamusu and The Neighborhood Scoop. Artists’ tents lined 2nd Street to sell their handcrafted goods.

Among those were dessert-themed candle makers Ciara and Sean Beasley, who own and operate Honee Beaz Candles. 

“The festival is all about supporting the community,” Ciara Beasley said. “We’re honored to be a part of it.”

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