With an argument, scuffle and shots fired, fatal gun violence tainted Shawnee Park’s Juice Bowl last year for the first time in the event’s history.
The shooting killed two and injured five at the annual Thanksgiving event, where neighbors gather for football, food and motorcycle races.
But despite the fear of violence, Shawnee residents like Remy Longworth still plan to attend the festivities this year.
For Longworth, the Juice Bowl is a tradition that draws his family from across the country to celebrate. He attended the event last year but left before the shooting.
Longworth said he plans to take his kids with him this year, and suggested other residents attend, too.
“I’ve been down here since 1987 and nothing’s ever, like that, happened at the Juice Bowl before, so I hope it doesn’t deter people from coming out,” Longworth said. “I’m glad that they didn’t try to take it away because we need that in the community.”
Marquay Williams has lived in Shawnee for six years and hasn’t decided whether he’ll go to the Juice Bowl this year. The shooting shocked him, and he says more security may be required to keep people safe.
“In order to keep everybody safe, if you have to put more security on there – of course,” Williams said. “I think there should be a movement … make it to where the crime rate gets low, to where everybody can actually live — kids can live to see their fathers and people can actually go to college, be what they want to be, and they can get out of the hood.”
New Safety Measures
Like last year, murders plague Louisville in 2017.
There were 105 homicides in Louisville last year — a record number. To date in 2017, there have been 95 homicides in Louisville, according to police data.
The violence has prompted some Metro Council members to call for Louisville Police Chief Steve Conrad’s resignation.
But Conrad’s department has promised changes to the bowl this year. Police will provide extra security and will shut down motorcycle races held near the event.
Community activist Christopher 2x said some bikers may feel cheated by that, losing their chance to race together for something they didn’t do. Circles, arcs and lines of black skid marks coat the pavement bikers used like a paintbrush, capturing more than 30 years of bike races during the Juice Bowl.
Councilwoman Jessica Green said she is “cautiously optimistic” about Louisville’s efforts to curb violence, citing initiatives such as the ShotSpotter gunshot detection technology. She plans to attend the Juice Bowl and encourages other residents to join her.
“It takes a police department, it takes activists, it takes anti-violence programs and it takes you and me, every resident, to be able to take back our streets,” Green said. “We cannot live with the spirit of fear … I’m going to live my life. And I’m going to go to events, and I’m going to go to the Juice Bowl and I’m going to enjoy it with my children and my family.”
Another change to this year’s bowl will memorialize victims of last year’s shooting.
Attendees commemorated the Juice Bowl shooting victims at a Thanksgiving dinner hosted by King Solomon Baptist Church, reflecting on the violent incident.
Another will pause the Juice Bowl on Thanksgiving morning for Micheshia Norment to release seven balloons for the victims of 2016’s shooting. Five months ago, Norment released balloons in memory of her 7-year-old son, who was killed by a stray bullet while inside his home.