Juneteenth celebrations conjure up visions of barbecue, watermelon, Big Red soda, warm summer days, freshly cut grass, picnic tables, family and friends.
The holiday, June 19, celebrates the day in 1865 when a Union general announced in Galveston that slaves were free. In the Crossroads, residents are celebrating in ways that involve some combination of savory food, festive music and good company.
Do you plan to attend any Juneteenth events?
The theme of the 39th annual Juneteenth celebration in Port Lavaca is “We Are the Faces of Freedom,” and George Adams Park is the site for the festivities Friday evening through Sunday afternoon.
“This event brings us all together in honor of June 19, and the history behind it,” said Samekia Love, chairperson for Calhoun Citizens in Action. “We have people who fly in from out of state to be together for this.”
DJ Slick will play country music at the street dance Friday evening, and Saturday will start with a ceremony at 11 a.m.
The guest speaker this year is Port Lavaca native Jennifer Wimbish, author of “Leadership Wisdom for All Generations: Unique Insights from Authentic Leaders.”
A free barbecue sausage lunch will be served about noon, and a domino tournament for adults is scheduled as well as bingo games for both adults and children. A bounce house also will help entertain the children.
St. Peter’s Praise Dance Team and Cool and Together rock band, both from Victoria, will perform in the evening followed by The Groove Doctors from San Antonio.
An afternoon fish fry and church service in the park will wrap up the celebration on Sunday.
The Juneteenth celebration in Cuero is adding a community health fair to the fun at First Presbyterian Church from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.
“Juneteenth is to African Americans what July 4 is to Americans – a celebration of independence,” said the Rev. Kelvin F. Washington, pastor at Mt. Bethany Baptist Church in Thomaston.
Free hamburgers, hotdogs and chili dogs will be served for lunch, and live entertainment will be provided by My Father’s House, Franklin Sisters, Madison Wesley, April Hernandez and the Soul Stirrers.
Free health screenings for blood pressure and blood sugar, educational resources and demonstrations also will be provided.
“If you look at our people, a lot of them get to the doctor too late, so the community health fair offers screening, advice and information about healthy living, about diabetes and high blood pressure, the silent killers,” Washington said. “We’re creating opportunities for them to get good medical advice, so they can make better choices.”
Life coach Drosto Montgomery, a Cuero native, will deliver a presentation related to Juneteenth.
“It’s a time to remember because lots of times we fail to recognize the past, and we’re bound to repeat it,” Washington said.
The celebration is organized by the DeWitt County Ministerial Alliance.
In celebration of Juneteenth, Hallet Oak Gallery in Hallettsville is hosting a Juneteenth reception, “Retrospect of Freedom,” featuring the artwork of four black artists from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday.
Earl Jones, a wood sculptor and painter from Galveston; Gene Grant, a realism artist from Hallettsville; and Moses Adams Jr., a master painter and mixed-media artist originally from Hallettsville who now lives in Houston, will attend the open house and display and sell their work.
Ameera York, a gospel pop recording artist also from Hallettsville, will provide the entertainment.
“Gene Grant was a sketch artist when we met him, and our organization donated all the oils, brushes and two months of training with Michael Windberg, and he was like a fish to water,” said Mieko Mahi, a facilitator of the arts who opened the Hallet Oak Gallery in 2015. “It’s unusual to produce six paintings in one month ... he’s a prolific painter.”
Jones carved sculptures from tree stumps in Galveston after Hurricane Ike that were featured in a Texas Monthly article that was later shared by the New York Times. He trained with artists John Biggers and Carroll Simms, and his carvings can be found throughout Texas.
“Jones is an extremely high-caliber artist, and we are honored to have him,” Mahi said. “All of our artists are talented.”
Mahi expects about 100 guests at the event, which is free and open to the public.
The gallery will serve appetizers, including fried drumsticks from Joe’s Fried Chicken in Hallettsville, fried shrimp, fried okra, watermelon and pies from Kountry Bakery. Adults can sip beer and wine, and children can enjoy ice-cream punch.
“I will give everyone a chance to speak if they want to, or I will just read a couple of poems by famous writers,” Mahi said. “We’re interested in bringing people together to enjoy art, assimilating different cultures so they feel equally welcome.”
The Old Landmark Committee encourages Crossroads residents of all ages to “shake a leg” in the “Soul Train” line on Juneteenth. The festival is 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Victoria Youth Sports Complex and Splash Pad.
In addition to commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, the festival will celebrate culture and music with a “Dancing Back to the Time of Soul Train and Motown” theme. In particular, Lawrence Davis, the disc jockey who is donating his time, will honor Aretha Franklin. Some in attendance likely will give Davis “old blues” CDs from their personal collections to add to the musical flavor, said Sandra Avery, president and founder of the Old Landmark Committee.
“All ages, lots of children and adults, listen to music, talk about old times, clap their hands and enjoy mixing with people of all nationalities,” Avery said.
Guest speakers will talk about the significance of the day, and a free lunch will include nachos, chili dogs and sausage.
Card and domino games will be in full swing as well as a watermelon seed spitting contest.
Children can wiggle with Hula Hoops, jump around a bounce house and cool off at the splash pad.
The event is free and open to the public. Donations are appreciated and help the committee continue to feed the hungry and support other important initiatives in the community, Avery said.