INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Black Expo (IBE) Summer Celebration Music Heritage Festival drew in hundreds Friday to downtown Indianapolis, bringing people together for a free concert.

The crowd of attendees lined the American Legion Mall from the area near Michigan Street, where the stage was set, all the way back to the Indianapolis Public Library on St. Clair Street.

“We are excited about this being an inclusive event,” said Regina Marsh, who works with Amp Harris Productions. “It’s about equity, it’s about all of us out here together, enjoying each other and having a very positive night.”

A rainy afternoon wasn’t a deterrent for the crowd, excited to be back for IBE’s first full-swing summer concert in several years. The volunteer-driven event was free for everyone, unless people decided to purchase VIP tickets.

“We had a little rain, a little sprinkle here and there,” Marsh said. “But we’re out here.”

The lawn started to pack hours in advance as people waited to see legendary artist Patti LaBelle, singer Monica, and Indianapolis’ own R&B group, After 7.

“With the world that we’re living in nowadays, I mean, we gotta have some type of fun,” said Trevon McGuire, a concert-goer who came out to the show with his family. He said it’s been about a decade since the last IBE Summer Celebration he attended.

“It’s just a different environment. Everyone can come together and have fun. That’s something I don’t want to go away,” McGuire said.

Volunteers behind the event said it’s about bringing people together from all backgrounds to celebrate and enjoy the night together, entertained by big names in music.

“It’s an opportunity for folks of all races, all nationalities, all communities to come out and be together for some good music,” said Marsh.

Marsh said that the Summer Celebration 2022 is much bigger than just the concert. Over a 10-day span, it’s 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 happened this week. We have a business conference that just happened this week. We’ve recognized entrepreneurs in the city of Indianapolis,” said Marsh.

To put together the production for Friday alone, however, is a huge undertaking in itself. Marsh credited the work of the IBE team, people who work to coordinate the production, RVs for talent, the stage set up, and of course, those who make it possible to host the event and do so safely.

“The City of Indianapolis has stepped up and performed on behalf of this organization. The state is out here, the crowd is enthusiastic, everybody is doing their part to make this the most wonderful night,” said Marsh.

The 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 Indianapolis Fire Department, among others.

“When we have somewhat of a bigger event throughout the Circle City such as the Indy 500, Brickyard, Circle City Classic or IBE, we want to make sure we have extra resources so people feel safe,” said Officer William Young with IMPD.

The agency also brings out its Emergency Response Group (ERG) to help keep crowds safe. Young said the additional resources for major events in Indianapolis don’t take away from any districts being able to be staffed and keep the community safe.

On top of the coordination with other agencies at the site of the concert, Young said it gives officers a chance to interact with people, not only on the enforcement side but as neighbors in the community.

It’s especially important as IMPD continues working to add to its team, with a big recruitment push underway, and continued efforts to diversify the department.

“When we talk about diversity, we don’t just talk about African American. It means females, Hispanic individuals; that means a multitude of things so that we can engage our African American community and a multitude of people out here,” said Young.

The event was held Friday night, but IBE continues its Summer Celebration through July 17.