Friday, June 10, 2016

Juneteenth Fest Kicks off Festival Season

Written By Derek J. Amaya, Guest Blogger

Festival season is fast approaching in Lincoln Parish with the first festival starting less than a few days from now.

Juneteenth Festival, the city of Grambling’s biggest annual event, will take place the week of June 12-18. The city will celebrate its 44th annual celebration with the theme “Building our Future … Honoring Our Legends.”

photo provided by Yanise Days

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. On June 19th, 1865, Union soldiers, led by Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger, landed in Galveston, Texas with news that the Civil War had ended and the enslaved were now free — two years after former United States President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

Ask anyone who knows me and I am unabashed about it. I love festivals.

What separates Juneteenth from most festivals in the state is the format of the festival. This festival is not one, not two, but a whopping seven days long. During the week-long celebration, there are plenty of events for all ages to enjoy. Though the festival’s opening ceremony typically takes place on a Wednesday, there are still major events going on during the days before the festival.

This year, the Black Poetry Contest will take place at 3 p.m. on Sunday, June 12th at the Grambling Community Center, located at 127 King St., Grambling. 

On Monday, June 13, the Kirby Kangaroo Financial Reality Fair will take place from 10 a.m.-3 p.m., followed by the much anticipated History of Grambling program at 6 p.m. at the Grambling Community Center. This event will be a special one as the city begins to wrap up its efforts to have an official history record of Grambling. This event will bring “legends” and historians of Grambling together to speak about everything Grambling.

photo provided by Yanise Days

The festival’s opening ceremony is Wednesday, June 15 at 5:30 p.m. To kick off the ceremony, residents will gather at the Grambling Community Center for an Old Fashioned Prayer Meeting followed by the annual Watermelon Feast. 

The festival’s Health and Wellness Community Health Fair will take place on Thursday, June 16 from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. followed by an Economic Empowerment Workshop at 6 p.m. at the Grambling Community Center.

Now comes my favorite part.

The Juneteenth Bake Off will take place from 9 a.m.-1 p.m., which will be accompanied by a Fish Fry from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. on Friday, June 17th at the Grambling Community Center. Gramblinites cook up something serious when celebrating and we haven’t even reached Festival Day yet. To cap of the day, the Miss Juneteenth Pageant will be held from 7-9 p.m. at the Floyd L. Sandle Theatre on Grambling State University’s Campus. These lovely ladies will get the chance to compete for one of the festivals biggest honors.

photo provided by Yanise Days

Finally come the big celebration — Festival Day.
photo provided by Yanise Days

Now, I will warn readers, be sure to bring some sunscreen, chairs and an empty belly — but I don’t know how that will be possible from Friday’s meals — because Festival Day bring hot weather and even hotter food.

A parade will ride down through Main Street, ending near Grambling City Hall, that features cartoon characters, candy and great dance routines that will get you out of your chairs. Following the parade, there will be live entertainment — and when I mean live, I mean shake your grove thing live — vendors, a car show and plenty of food that will make you second guess your cooking skills.

If there’s one thing the City of Grambling knows, it’s how to celebrate. And if there’s one thing Grambling’s even better at, it’s inviting the whole community, regardless of color, to come out and celebrate this powerful celebration.

It’s something I look forward to every year and it’s a joy for me to go out and cover the festival for the Ruston Daily Leader. For those looking for good music, good food and a good time, this festival is a must do.

Derek J. Amaya grew up a proud Southern gentleman in Metairie. He graduated from Louisiana Tech University and works for the Ruston Daily Leader. He loves the finer things like waiting for the Kansas City Southern train to pass when he has to be somewhere, Tech parking tickets and voicemails. Follow Derek on Twitter at @DerekAmaya or on Facebook.

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