© 2023 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

East St. Louis festival on Sunday will celebrate city's history and Illinois bicentennial

Olympic gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee will be at the East St. Louis Heritage Festival on Sunday. Aug. 26, 2018
Provided by lllinois Bicentennial Commission

East St. Louis will celebrate its own rich history on Sunday as it joins about a dozen Illinois cities holding celebrations to mark the state’s bicentennial.

The East St. Louis Heritage Festival at the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center will note the 200th anniversary of the state’s first constitution, signed in Kaskaskia on Aug. 26, 1818. The festival also will celebrate remarkable East St. Louisans, like iconic jazz trumpeter Miles Davis, Olympic gold medalist Joyner-Kersee, and others.

That’s a legacy many have forgotten, event coordinator Charlotte Ottley said.

Joyner-Kersee will be on hand to greet children, and East St. Louis Poet Laureate Eugene B. Redmond will display a collection of his works and memorabilia. An interactive legacy wall will allow people to trace where their families lived in the city.

A theme of the event will be “old friends unite; new friends are made.’’

“For those who know, they will remember and fall in love with the city again,’’ Ottley said. “For those who don’t know, we want them to learn and appreciate us.’’

Ottley hopes people from both sides of the Mississippi River will come and learn about the city’s past and its hopes for the future.

“The stronger we are in relationships with our shared vision and appreciation of the history that we’ve brought to the area, I think that’s growth for all of us,’’ she said.

The free festival runs from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center, 101 Jackie Joyner-Kersee Circle, East St. Louis. It will feature exhibits, entertainment and vendors.

Follow Mary Delach Leonard on Twitter: @marydleonard


Mary Delach Leonard is a veteran journalist who joined the St. Louis Beacon staff in April 2008 after a 17-year career at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where she was a reporter and an editor in the features section. Her work has been cited for awards by the Missouri Associated Press Managing Editors, the Missouri Press Association and the Illinois Press Association. In 2010, the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis honored her with a Spirit of Justice Award in recognition of her work on the housing crisis. Leonard began her newspaper career at the Belleville News-Democrat after earning a degree in mass communications from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, where she now serves as an adjunct faculty member. She is partial to pomeranians and Cardinals.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.