June 20, 2014 11:06:56 AM
STARKVILLE - Two Golden Triangle cities will host events Saturday marking Juneteenth, the annual celebration of the abolishment of slavery and the emancipation of African Americans.
The event specifically honors the June 1865 announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation by Union Gen. Gordon Granger in Galveston, Texas.
The 18th edition of Columbus' Juneteenth festival begins at 8 tonight at Sim Scott Park and will continue all day Saturday beginning at noon.
Festival spokesperson Cindy Lawrence said she expects between 15,000 and 16,000 attendees at the free event as well as 25 vendors for this year's installment. Musical entertainment tonight includes DJ Lovebone and The Flame Band and Show. Tomorrow, gospel artist Armondo Adams will be featured as well as R&B artists Karen Wolfe, Carl Sims and the Crossroad Band.
"We're looking forward to Juneteenth being one of the biggest events in Lowndes County this year," Lawrence said. "A lot of people come here during vacation to see old friends."
Columbus-Juneteenth, Inc., the non-profit formed this year after the dissolution of former event host the Afro-American Culture Organization, received a $15,000 grant from the Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors' Bureau, plus donations from other private groups, Lawrence said.
Starkville began hosting its first Juneteenth Celebration and Multi-Cultural Arts Festival on Thursday with a Mr. and Mrs. Juneteenth Pageant. Celebrations continue at 9:30 a.m. Saturday with a celebration parade featuring Mayor Parker Wiseman and former Starkville School District administrator Fenton Peters.
Various events are scheduled throughout the day at West Side Park, including an 11 a.m. opening ceremony, numerous live musical performances, a fashion show, barbecue contest and community line dancing.
Festival coordinator Stefanie Ashford said residents and volunteers should feel a sense of pride for organizing and participating in Starkville's first such celebration. The event, she said, will help strengthen bonds between community members.
"We definitely feel like we are pioneers, and we feel the importance of supporting each other here in Starkville, not just with our school system, but with our businesses, churches and community organizations," she said. "If we all pull together, we can help improve the quality of life here in Starkville for everybody."
Numerous local organizations and non-profits will have volunteers ready to speak with residents to show them how to get more involved in their community.
"I'm excited about the festival, and I think it is going to be an outstanding event," Wiseman said. "I am honored that the organizers invited me to participate."
For a complete listing of Starkville's Juneteenth events, visit juneteenthstarkvillems.homestead.com/What-s-Happening.html.
Dispatch reporter Nathan Gregory contributed to this report.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
1. Students accused of statutory rape COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY