City-sponsored Juneteenth Festival returns to Reaves Park next Saturday | New

The town of Norman invites the public to Reaves Park on Saturday for its second annual Juneteenth festival – an expansion on its first year, according to one of the organizers.

A coordinated effort between a citizen-led committee, the City of Norman and the Norman Arts Council, the second iteration of the Juneteenth Festival begins at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Reaves Park, 2501 Jenkins Ave.

The event will continue into the evening, with guest speakers, opportunities to support black-owned small businesses, food trucks, a bouncy house and a fireworks show. It will also feature a poetry reading – something planners have added to this year’s festival.

Cinthya Allen, diversity and equity manager for the town of Norman, said she hopes to build on last year’s case, where people from many walks of life came together to celebrate the holidays. and show what a unified community looks like.

“We are so grateful for the commitment of our City Manager, our City Council and our Mayor,” Allen said. “But it really goes beyond that for local citizens and stakeholders who are interested and excited to get involved – we have the Norman Regional Health System, the Pioneer Library System and representation from the various entities that make Norman what he is to everyone.

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when US Army General Gordon Granger and about 2,000 soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas and announced the end of the war and the slaves were free. Granger’s announcement came more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared slaves free on January 1, 1863.

Norman’s first Poet Laureate, Julie Anne Ward, will read a poem especially for the event. It is an addition to the festival program.

George Henderson and his wife Barbara, Norman’s first black owners, will once again open the event. The Hendersons moved to Norman in 1967.

George Henderson said Juneteenth and the festival that marks it recognize that he and his wife are not just passing visitors.

“We are members of the Norman family and we celebrate diversity issues and the history of all people here,” Henderson said. “It’s the start of something that will be more inclusive.”

Allen said it’s always special to have the Hendersons as guests to highlight cultural and historical value and to provide inspiration.

Former University of Oklahoma quarterback and Congressman JC Watts will also speak at the event.

The festival will also welcome the 9th and 10th Buffalo Cavalry Troopers, who will present a color guard. The graduate chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi, a historically black fraternity, will host a dominoes tournament at the festival.

Several food trucks and a wide selection of vendors will be present at the festival on Saturday.

“Of course, we want to highlight and support black-owned businesses, and we’re opening it up to other local businesses as well,” Allen said.

A fireworks display will close the festival around 9:30 p.m., Allen said.

Everyone from Norman and surrounding communities is welcome to attend and bring a lawn chair. Allen emphasized that the June 19 celebration is a family event.

“It really feels like you’re in your own backyard with your friends and family, and that’s one of the special things about it,” Allen said. “We would love to welcome anyone to Norman and the surrounding area to consider spending time with us on Saturday evenings.”

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