28th Juneteenth Day celebration set for June 2

The Winston County Voters League invites the public, elected officials and candidates to the 28th Annual Juneteenth Day Festival on June 2, 2012. Join league members at Dean Park on HWY 15 S in the Center Ridge Community from 12 noon until 5pm. Juneteenth is a diverse and inclusive celebration that is open to all people who wish to share ethnic foods, fashions, crafts, artistic talents, athletics and more.

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that all slaves were now free. It had been two and a half years since President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863 was official

The reactions to this profound news ranged from shock to jubilation. Many freed slaves lingered to learn of the new employer to employee relationship. Many left immediately, depending upon the conditions on the plantations and the realization of freedom. Even with nowhere to go, many felt they needed to grasp this new freedom. Going north was a logical destination but others desired to find family members in neighboring states of Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma.

The celebration of June 19th was shortened to “Juneteenth” and grew and declined over past decades. A range of activities to entertain continue in tradition today. Rodeos, fishing, barbecuing and baseball are a few of the typical Juneteenth activities witnessed today. Juneteenth almost always focuses on education and self-improvement. Guest speakers, elders, elected officials/candidates for office and respected community residents are part of the programs.

Certain foods became popular and synonymous with Juneteenth celebrations. A variety of foods and beverages was always abundant but specialties such as lamb, pork and beef that were unavailable every day were brought for this special occasion. Even dress was an important element in the early Juneteenth customs because in some areas, there were laws that prohibited or limited the proper dressing of slaves. Thus, Juneteenth offered ex-slaves the chance to toss their ragged garments and to adorn more fitting clothing often taken from their former “masters”.

The League continues to promote the Juneteenth Day Festival as a fun- filled family day. Groups or individuals are encouraged to reserve a booth to showcase your favorite foods, crafts, arts or other specialty. Booths are spread throughout the park so visitors can purchase products throughout the day. Contact Janice Hopkins at 773-7743 to reserve a space.

Food choices are limited only by the imagination of the vendor. Past food favorites have included barbeque pork, beef and chicken, fried fish, grilled hamburgers, hot dogs, polish and bratwurst, hot chicken wings, home made ice cream, snow cones, roasted corn, candied apples, nachos and assorted baked goods. Assorted beverages always quench the thirst on typical Mississippi hot, pre-summer days. Fruit-flavored sodas like strawberry, cherry, grape and orange are favorites of the young set.

Entertainment is always a big part of the scheduled events. Musicians, soloists, poets, rappers, choirs and praise dancers are invited to share their talents. If you wish to perform, call Claudell Weaver at 773-9414 or Brenda Johnson at 803-5680. It’s all casual, crowd pleasing and perfected by D.J. Harvey Hampton playing gospel, old school and the latest dance tunes throughout the day.

A number of games for children including balloon water toss, sack races, jumper games and face painting will be ongoing. Door prizes will be awarded each hour. Raffle tickets are available for a $1.00 donation with three (3) chances to win $100.00, $75.00 or $50.00 cash prizes. Names will be drawn at the end of the day and you do not have to be present to win. The “Cake Walk” is a popular event offering many chances to win a delicious cake for only .50. Mrs. Betsy Eichelberger is our oldest member and contact person for the Cake Walk and Health Fair volunteers.

The newly formed Louisville Sluggers Semi-Pro Baseball team will play their first home games at 2:30pm and 5:00pm against Artesia/ Starkville. Dean Park Commissioners are pleased to sponsor the Louisville Sluggers as the Dean Park home team and ask for your support. Gate donations will go toward supporting projects of Friends of Dean Park, Inc. and the Boys and Girls Club.

For more information, suggestions or offers to assist, contact League President Linda Hampton at 773-6220 or vice president Claudell Weaver at 773-9414. Join the League for a fun-filled family affair at Dean Park and help celebrate the 28th Annual Juneteenth Day Festival on June 2, 2012.

Submitted by Claudell Weaver