BY ANDREAS BUTLER
Linda McGhee is hoping that area residents will join in the Juneteenth community festival on Saturday to learn about the holiday and partake in free activities for kids and adults.
McGhee said the Daytona Beach festival is the largest Juneteenth celebration in the state.
“Our celebration has vendors come from as far as Miami. In Daytona Beach, the event is the largest in all of Florida, including larger cities like Jacksonville and Miami. Our Daytona event is also free to the public,” McGhee told the Daytona Times.
Saturday’s festival takes place from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Cypress Street Park, 925 George W. Engram Blvd.
“This is an event that brings everyone together regardless of race, religion and status. It’s a national holiday for all people as we celebrate the history of African-American slaves being freed and everyone who played a significant role in freeing them,” McGhee, chair of the local Juneteenth Committee, told the Daytona Times.
“I love Juneteenth. I think about slavery and the impact it has on our people. I don’t think I can never not take part in Juneteenth.’’
“The event has been welcomed in a positive manner. Each and every year, the crowds are bigger and better and extremely diverse. We have people of all races, religions and creeds, including Black, White, Hispanic, Asian and so on as well as Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Sikh, etc.’’
Juneteenth commemorates the day when slaves in Texas and Oklahoma found out that they were free in 1867, which was two years following the American Civil War. The official day celebrated is July 19, 1865.
The event started in Texas but has spread across the country.
McGhee confirmed, “It is actually up before Congress right now requesting to become a national holiday, which could soon happen. It is well deserved.”
The festival will have plenty of music, including opera, old Negro spirituals, hip-hop, R&B and jazz.
The Sankofa African traveling museum will be displaying 500 artifacts and there will be a pound cake contest with trophies for the top winners.
There will be inflatables, train rides, bounce houses, rock climbing walls, bungee jumping, pony rides and a petting zoo for children’s activities.
This is the 17th year for the Juneteenth festival and 15th for the annual banquet.
On Wednesday, the committee honored 19 people at its Juneteenth Hometown Heroes awards at the Midtown Cultural & Educational Center.
Some of the honorees were:
Daytona Beach Deputy Police Chief Jakari Young. Young has spent 16 years on the force and served as a sergeant, lieutenant and captain. He as made plenty of inroads and impacted the community.
Dr. Regina Asihene, a local physician employed with Florida Health Care, scholar and researcher.
She also has served as a medical missionary.
Bob and Bobbi Coleman. The Colemans serve on many boards and organizations that help youngsters. Mr. Coleman is a retired Florida Power & Light executive and a former adjunct professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Mrs. Coleman was a Board Member of the Year for the Boys & Girls Club.
McGhee, a former Daytona Leisure Services employee, has been part of the event since its inception.
Former Mayor Yvonne Scarlett Golden, who was a city commissioner at the time and former Leisure Services Director Patty Evans, also helped to create it.
McGhee recalls,” I worked under Patty back then and Commissioner Golden wanted to see a new event. Commissioner Golden was upset that the Halloween Carnival had been taken from Derbyshire Park, which was in her zone.
“Patty came to me and told me about Juneteenth. I hadn’t heard of it. We researched it. The first year the city footed the entire bill. The second year, I had to go and raise money. I told them that I would do it if we could keep access to the park. Charles Bryant and I started the committee to keep it alive to raise money from both mom and pops stores and local businesses.”
The original banquet was held at the Dickerson Center a few years later.
“We outgrew every location. We moved from the Dickerson Center to Bethune-Cookman’s gymnasium to Embry-Riddle to the (Daytona International) Speedway, then to Midtown. Midtown can hold the type of crowd that we have for the banquet.”
The City of Daytona Beach is a major sponsor and Bethune-Cookman University is the signature sponsor.
“Both City Manager Jim Chisolm and the Commission have played a vital part of Juneteenth since the beginning. We are very appreciative of both for their outstanding support in making sure that Juneteenth is on city property that includes both the banquet and festival,” McGhee added.