The inaugural Juneteenth festival will be held June 18-20 in Charleston.
Juneteenth is a national observance honoring the date, June 19, 1865, when the last slaves in the United States — they were in Texas — received official word that they had been emancipated.
To commemorate and celebrate their African heritage, a few Charleston business owners are sponsoring the “Junetacular Summer Festival.”
The name and the event itself are the brainchild of one of the sponsors, Cedric Terry, of Terry’s Sports Bar.
“The last Charleston Day [National Charleston Day Organization reunion] we had here, we had such a nice crowd and such a great event, my mind went to wondering, hey, why we can’t have this type of event in Charleston every year. So God put it on my heart to be thinking about it,” Terry said.
The pandemic gave him plenty of time to ponder, so he began piecing it all together, contacting people and, after speaking with a good friend, settled on the Juneteenth observance for a festival.
Although Junetacular will span three days and feature a variety of activities, the greatest concentration and the largest celebration comes, fittingly, on Saturday, June 19.
On that day, a formal program will be held from 8-10 a.m. off the west portico of the Tallahatchie County Courthouse in Charleston.
The lineup of guest speakers for the program will include Patrick Alexander, ambassador of the Oasis Literacy Center in Senatobia; Dr. Lashonda Simmons Fason, a Charleston High School graduate now serving in the upper echelons of the Memphis schools; Dr. Marvel Hudson of Atlanta, former local school official and motivational speaker; pastor Ricky Garvin of Table of Life Ministry in Charleston; former CHS and now Hattiesburg High School football coach Tony Vance; Dr. Leslie Taylor Glover, a CHS alumnus now serving as a professor at Southern University in Baton Rouge; and Alvin Johnson of Chicago, president of the NCDO.
Terry said limited public seating will be available for the program, which is being called a “success seminar.”
At 11 a.m., a Juneteenth parade will get underway, traveling the traditional course from the former National Guard armory around Court Square and ending at the hospital.
In lieu of a band, Terry said children from the Oasis Literacy Center and Lyfe Dance Academy of Memphis will perform during the parade.
A car show is scheduled from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m.
“We have some old classic cars that are going to be in the parade, so Clay Taylor and his car group and the Corvette group from Memphis are going to park their cars from the Snack Bar east to Brianna’s so people can walk up and look at them,” Terry said.
Terry said organizers of Junetacular asked for and were granted permission by the Charleston Board of Commissioners to block off a segment of Main Street west of the courthouse starting at 5 p.m. Friday until 2 a.m. Saturday, then from 8 a.m. Saturday until late Saturday night.
In this area of Main, stretching from North Church to Waverly Street, vendors will set up for three days in parking spaces on both sides.
A barbecue contest will help “cut the chatter and see who really is the best” at cooking barbecue, Terry said.
He said organizers have been in discussions with Tallahatchie General Hospital to utilize the old Piggly Wiggly parking lot as a kid’s zone, with all sorts of activities.
There will be a first aid station and “hand sanitizer everywhere,” noted Terry.
“We hope this will be a safe event, a great event, not only for African Americans but for everybody in Charleston,” he said. “We’re inviting everybody to come and have a good time.”