Juneteenth mixes pride with fun

  • Article by: KIM MCGUIRE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 16, 2012 - 10:45 PM

The annual celebration marks a key event in the history of black Americans.

For Deniece Young, Juneteenth is about heritage. It's about understanding your past to appreciate your future, she said.

But for her 7-year-old son, DeJuan, the most important thing at the 27th annual Twin Cities Juneteenth Festival on Saturday seemed to be the hot dogs. He was finishing up one when he asked his mother to buy more.

"He understands that Juneteenth has something to do with slavery," Young said. "But he sees today more about having fun at the park with some of his friends. That will change, I hope."

Many who attended the celebration at North Mississippi Regional Park in Minneapolis said it's important for Minnesota's children to understand what Juneteenth means for black Americans.

The event, celebrated around the country, recognizes June 19, 1865, the day slaves in Galveston, Texas, found out they'd been freed, almost three years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

The Twin Cities event is the second-largest Juneteenth celebration in the country, said organizers, who added that they have plans to expand in the future.

"We hope that someday it can be bigger than Texas'," said Mary Pargo, president of the Twin Cities Juneteenth Festival.

Pargo said she expected about 10,000 people to attend Saturday's event, which featured several musical acts, vendors and children's activities. That would be about double the number of people who attended last year's event, she said, which, like Saturday morning, was dampened by bouts of rain.

Saturday's soggy start, however, didn't seem to hinder most festivalgoers, many of whom got their early to stake out a spot to see R&B artist RL, who was the headline entertainer.

The Juneteenth festivities actually began earlier this week. Among them was a re-enactment of the Underground Railroad, a network of secret routes and safe houses used by runaway slaves. About a dozen local teens participated in the re-enactment, which featured actors dressed in period clothes.

"We told them, 'Imagine, you're back in the 1700s. There's no running water. You're on the run. It's pitch black outside,'" said Willie Franklin, the narrator for the re-enactment.

Juneteenth organizers said next year's event will feature a parade. In January, the group began a fundraising drive that will help pay for the parade and possibly add other events like a gala, a scholarship drive and amusement rides for children.

"We know there's a desire, a need, to do this event in an even larger manner," said John Jamison, a festival committee member.

Kim McGuire • 612-673-4469

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