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Juneteenth Fest to celebrate freedom, fellowship


Kristin Mamrack



Organizers of the 13th annual Juneteenth Festival, held June 18 through June 20, expect this year''s event to bring in additional tourism business for Columbus hotels and restaurants. 


For the first time, the event will feature live entertainment Friday night, instead of traditional softball games. 


"We''ve changed the format from softball to entertainment," explained Lowndes County District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks, who helps organize the event. "One thing about having the Friday night entertainment is vendors will be coming in earlier, (and) it will enhance tourism in terms of people staying in hotels. We''ll have security and allow them to set up early Friday and keep (vendor booths) up overnight, instead of having to take them down (until the next day)." 


Brooks said at least five out-of-town vendors have committed to the event, which is limited to 30 vendors. Vendor spots still are available. 


Interested vendors should contact Brooks at 662-329-5871. 


The festival kicks off with a party, held June 18 from 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., at the Master Hosts Inn, featuring D. J. Love Bone. 


On June 19, from 7:30 p.m. to 11 p.m., Keith and Margie Brown, The Flame Band and The Jous Band will provide live entertainment at Sim Scott Park. 


The festival continues June 20 from 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. at Sim Scott Park, with live bands and activities for children. 


Gospel groups, blues groups, The Crossroad Band and Big Cynthia will provide entertainment, headlined by Omar Cunningham. 


The festival, which is funded through a grant from the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau, vendor fees and other community sponsors, is free and open to the public. 


"We''re excited and encouraging people to come out and participate," said Brooks. "Juneteenth for the community is a major tourist attraction, but the other side of it is the historical importance of understanding Juneteenth as a day of freedom. We''re bringing people together for fellowship and camaraderie. We''re really excited about it." 


Last year''s festival drew a crowd of about 13,000, and Brooks expects 13,000 to 15,000 this year.  


Juneteenth traces its roots to June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers reached Galveston, Texas, and delivered news of the end of the Civil War and slavery. The 1865 announcement came two years after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.




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