By Matt Clevenger
For Miami Valley Today
TROY — The city of Troy will hold its first Juneteenth Celebration at McKaig-Race Park on Saturday, June 19, honoring the end of slavery in the United States with a free community festival featuring food, games and activities, guest speakers, singers and other entertainment.
“It’s all free,” Troy Human Relations Commission member Sonia Holycross said. “This is our first Juneteenth and we want to celebrate it, and we want to take down the barrier of money; we want everybody to be there, and we just want to have a good old-fashioned celebration.”
The festivities will kick-off at 3:30 p.m., starting with a Celebration Walk from the Troy-Miami County Public Library to McKaig-Race Park. The festival will run from 4-7 p.m. at the park; guest speakers and other entertainment will begin at 4:45 p.m.
“We’re going to start by honoring some of our elders with a libation ceremony,” Holycross said. “We’ll have guest speakers, and we’re going to have different businesses coming out to have booths. We have some of our community legends on the grill; we have other donors and churches who are going to do the sides for us.”
“It’s going to be exciting,” she said. “It’s all going to be free for the community.”
Bakehouse Bread & Cookie Co. will provide old southern tea cake cookies, and other traditional Juneteenth foods like strawberry soda will also be available.
“African Americans at that time were not allowed to have red dye, so strawberry is very significant,” Holycross said. “Anything that’s red; we have strawberry soda, red velvet cake, sweet potato cupcakes and things like that.”
Other activities will include bounce houses and family-friendly games.
“As you go through the different booths there will be a passport; you get a stamp or a sticker, and then you can receive a free book,” Holycross said.
The festival is a community-driven event, organized by the city of Troy’s relatively recently-formed Human Relations Commission, and sponsored by local individual, non-profit and business donors. Sponsors include the Troy Foundation, the Lincoln Center, Encloudment, Richard’s Chapel, St. James AME Church, the Troy Freedom Chasers and others.
“Our businesses have really been amazing,” Holycross said. “The Troy Foundation is our biggest sponsor; they really helped us make this happen.”
Organizers are planning to make the Juneteenth Celebration an annual event in the future. “There will be more to come,” Holycross said. “We hope that each year more sponsors and more people will want to participate.”
Historically, Juneteenth is a holiday honoring the Emancipation Proclamation and the end of slavery in the United States. Also known as “Emancipation Day” and “Freedom Day,” it is celebrated annually on the anniversary of Union General Gordon Granger’s 1865 announcement of General Order No. 3, granting freedom from slavery in Texas.
“Slavery didn’t just end at someone’s swipe of a pen,” Holycross said. “The Emancipation happened, but it wasn’t enforced everywhere.
“That’s why we call Juneteenth the true Freedom Day,” she said. “That’s when everyone was free from slavery.”
“This is a very good way to honor and tribute African Americans,” Holycross said. “It’s super-significant, and it’s not something that everybody knows about,” she said. “We don’t always learn all of the history.”