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Juneteenth festival this Saturday
Juneteenth - Howard Henny.jpg
Howard Henny serves fried fish as a previous Juneteenth celebration.

Juneteenth, short for June Nineteenth, is a 156-year-old holiday celebrating the emancipation of those who had been enslaved in the United States.

Young Men Young will hold its annual Juneteenth festival from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. this Saturday, June 19, at 103 Bernard Drive.

“We’re going to have fun and enjoy the day,” said Young Men United president Donald Crisp. “Hopefully, everyone can come out. We’ve got activities, entertainment, food vendors and a silent auction. Bring your own chair and join us.”

Entertainment includes a production sponsored by Warren Arts, in conjunction with Young Men United. “Oh, Freedom,” a play depicting the story of the Underground Railroad, begins at 2 p.m. and is expected to last 45 minutes.

The Under-ground Railroad helped enslaved people in the American South reach freedom in the North. It was not an actual railroad and it did not run underground. It was a network of people willing to jeopardize their own lives and freedom to end the practice of slavery. They used a network of homes, barns, churches and businesses to move enslaved people and keep them safe along the route.

Juneteenth activities include a 3-on-3 indoor basketball game and cornhole, both for fun. A silent auction will include a 65-inch flat screen TV and a PlayStation 5. 

Proceeds benefit the organization and its continued efforts to preserve the old Bernard School. 

“We’ve been there since last February,” said Crisp, of the school. “God sent that place back to us. We’re about three-quarters of the way done with the gym. Kids are in there playing. The gym said to me, ‘I’m just so glad y’all brought me back to life. The big thing we need now are bleachers, which is why people need to bring their own chairs on Saturday. When we get bleachers, we can start having some small basketball tournaments.”

Juneteenth marks the day in 1865 when a group of enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, finally learned they were free from the institution of slavery – more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. The Civil War was still going on. When it ended, Union Major Gen. Gordon Granger traveled to Texas and issued an order stating that all enslaved people were free. 

Newly freed black people celebrated the first Juneteenth in 1866 to commemorate liberation with food, singing, and the reading of spirituals. Today, nearly every state recognizes Juneteenth. Texas became the first state to declare Juneteenth an official holiday in 1980. Tennessee did so in 2007.

McMinnville Mayor Ryle Chastain will be guest speaker during the 16th annual Juneteenth celebration at 103 Bernard Drive. Gates open at 8 a.m. 

The festival begins at 10 a.m. and continues until 6 p.m.