Juneteenth celebration to be held in Bunkie Saturday

In some areas of the nation, "Juneteenth" is a major annual celebration. In many others, the mention of the name is met with blank stares.

In Avoyelles Parish, those who find a special meaning behind the June 19 holiday -- and those who might want to find out more about it -- can do so from 5-8 p.m. this Saturday on Main Street in Bunkie.

This year, June 19 comes during a period of restrictions aimed at stopping the spread of a potentially fatal virus. It also arrives as the nation is engaged in protests, debates and discussion centered around whether African Americans can expect equal justice in this nation.

For those unfamiliar with the holiday, it commemorates the day in 1865 when Union troops arrived in Galveston,Texas, and Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger proclaimed that all individuals who had been enslaved were free -- that slavery had been abolished.

It became a holiday to celebrate the end of slavery in America.

Chris Robinson of Bunkie is one of a group of individuals who started celebrating Juneteenth four years ago.

"This is a celebration that is not getting any attention or exposure," Robinson said. "There are some Juneteenth celebrations in the state, but it was lacking in Avoyelles."

Robinson said Juneteenth, also called Freedom Day, is one of the nation's oldest celebrations. Robinson said the event will be held on Main Street, in front of the Bunkie Depot.

Precautions will be taken to comply with social distancing requirements. Wearing protective masks is encouraged but will not be required to attend the event.

"I know all of the other festivals were canceled," Robinson said. "They are much bigger events."

He said he does not expect there to be a problem meeting all state requirements under Phase 2.There will be food and possibly arts/crafts vendors at the event. There will be a booth with information on the U.S.Census, currently underway in the parish.

"We will also have dominoes, cards and competitive games," Robinson said. "There will be a cook-off and bake-off." The cook-off will include a variety of foods, he noted.

The event will be capped with a fireworks display.

Admission to the event is free, Robinson said.

While this will be the 4th annual Juneteenth celebrationin Bunkie, it is the first at the Depot. The previous events were in Sheppard Park.

"We moved the location because we want it to be more inclusive," Robinson said. While the significance of the event behind the holiday is obvious for African Americans, Robinson said he believes there are many in the white community who would also like to join in observing and celebrating the end of slavery.

"We are just trying to spread the information of what Juneteenth is all about," he said

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