Not many people are familiar with the significance of the Juneteenth Festival even though it’s been celebrated in the United States for several decades dating all the way back to 1865.
The 10th Annual Juneteenth Summer Festival will take place from 3 p.m. – 8 p.m. this Saturday at the Oxford Intermediate School.
Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration that commemorates the ending of slavery in America. On June 19, 1865, two years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger led Union soldiers to Galveston, Texas, where they received the news that slaves were now free people. Enforcing the new Executive Order in Texas was difficult due to the lack of Union troops there to enforce the new law.
With Granger’s regiment and the surrender of Gen. Robert E. Lee in April of 1865, there were finally enough Union forces able to enforce the order and overcome resistance.
June 19 was a significant day in American history because after two years of delaying freedom to those enslaved, independence was finally granted to those who still did not yet have their freedom.
Juneteenth celebrations have been around for decades, but Oxford is now celebrating its 10th Juneteenth Festival which, was started by Pastor Debra Palmer.
Palmer had a vision for the festival, and she worked to gather people from around the community who she believed could properly fulfill the legacy of Juneteenth. One individual handpicked by Palmer to carry on this legacy was Cecelia James-Webb, who is now the event chair and has worked on the festival for the past eight years. The Juneteenth Festival planning committee now consists of Sally Stark, Frances Howell, Oxford Alderman Ulysses “Coach” Howell, Roberts Wilson and Kesha Howell-Atkinson, who is the event chair alongside Cecilia James-Webb.
“This is a freedom festival where you come and enjoy free food and free fun,” James-Webb said. “We want this to be a place of freedom which is why everything will be free.”
The festival will have various vendors from around the community who will be giving away free items at their tents. Local businesses and other local organizations such as Snowbiz, Oxford Dental, Mugg Cakes, Andy’s Art Tent, Delta Sigma Theta, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Pi Beta Sigma, The Bullseye 95.5 and many other vendors will be in attendance.
Not only does the event have numerous vendors, but also an incredible amount of sponsors including the City of Oxford, Action Auto, Good Nutrition, Bob Well Catering from New Orleans, Chick-fil-A and Roberts Wilson Law Firm.
Juneteenth has so much more than just great vendors and sponsors giving away free items. There’s also a ton of fun activities to participate in at the event. Face painting, games, waterslides, barbecue and live entertainment with a performance from the band Eclipse will be at the event. The fraternities and sororities involved in Juneteenth will be participating in a Greek Stroll-off, a type of dance competition which is performed by multicultural greek organizations that have ties to African roots.
The Juneteenth Summer Festival will be able to celebrate summer in the summer heat by being involved within the community, playing games, visiting vendors and enjoying free food and entertainment, all while celebrating an incredibly monumental day in American history.
“We are very excited for this year’s festival,” James-Webb said. “We would like to give a huge thank you to the city of Oxford for all of their support and effort.”