Local community prepares for first celebration of Juneteenth, our new federal holiday

West Virginia

HUNTINGTON, WV (WOWK) — Saturday is Juneteenth, and communities across our region are gearing up to observe the holiday.

This year, Juneteenth is both a state and federal holiday.

People in the Huntington community have high spirits about the increased awareness but hope everyone recognizes what the day is actually about.

“Gordon Granger rode into Texas, and he told the slaves they were free on June 19th, so that’s why they call it Juneteenth in 1865, and so what we do is we come together, we have celebrations,” says Rebecca Glass, resident of Huntington.

Locally, the celebration is a long-standing one.

“Our history kinda gets lost sometimes. And so it’s nice that everyone gets to recognize something that we’ve been recognizing for years,” says MaRia Hill, director of the A.D. Lewis Community Center.

This year, the festivities are taking place mainly at the A.D. Lewis Community Center with a 5K beginning at Ritter Park, an all-day celebration at the Thomas T. Hill Track and Field, and much more.

“The Juneteenth has historically been here at the center every year, so it’s just a given, almost,” Hill says.

Organizers say they hope this year’s event can connect everyone.

“I’m hoping to build relationships with people outside of the community and have them come into the community to see you know what we do, what we’re about, celebrate with us,” says Mari Jayne Crawford, owner of A Queen’s Dream and coordinator of the Juneteenth event in Huntington.

People say they hope the increased awareness about Juneteenth this year leads to a better understanding of the holiday.

“People will say ‘now I have that day off.’ I’m hoping they know why they have the day off,” Glass says.  

“This is not new to us, but it’s new to everyone else, so it’s nice that everyone gets to celebrate,” Hill says.

The Juneteenth event begins Friday night with an already sold-out mixer at the Doubletree.

For a full rundown of events at this year’s Juneteenth, visit their Facebook page here

Or, visit the Huntington Area Convention and Visitors Bureau’s website here.

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