History should never be forgotten.
On Saturday, a Johnson City community banded together to honor one historical achievement from the past, while also creating a little history of their own by hosting the city’s first Juneteenth Festival.
Juneteenth was first done in Galveston, Texas, after the Emancipation Proclamation declared that all slaves were to be freed, Charles Loftly, one of the organizers of the event, said.
“This is a festival to commemorate the unification between every culture as a unified community,” Loftly said.
Starting at noon, Carver Park and Recreation Center was filled with fragrant foods, loud music and kids jumping from the playground areas to moon bounces and gigantic inflatable slides.
Loftly said the festival, while meant to be kid friendly, had a little bit of everything for anyone passing through.
Tents were set up to shade the sun from the vendors’ tables, which included food, clothing and other local businesses.
Adolphus Hall, a vendor from N&K Variety Food Plus Inc. and West Africa native from Liberia, said he was happy to display his Liberian roots at the festival, as well as show his support for the community.
“Hopefully this (Juneteenth festival) will be a vitality for the neighborhood,” he said.
Another vendor at the event was Jane Fields-Smith, with University Lube Detailing, who said the Juneteenth celebration was already off to a great start.
“I think it’s going really, really good,” Fields-Smith said. “We as a people, just people, can get together and have fun, listen to music, do things for our kids –– who are always our future –– to let them know that life is not always that serious. Sometimes it’s just fun.”
Kids at the event were given a wristband to get free food and drinks, as well as play time on the inflatables.
Nancy Mack, a volunteer who distributed free hotdogs, hamburgers, chips and drinks for the children, said she saw the event as a positive thing for kids and adults.
“It’s great for the children, it’s great for the community and Juneteenth has been around for a long time, so I’m just glad that we were able to get together in Johnson City and do our first one,” she said. “I think the adults are enjoying it too. It gives the people who have grown up around Carver a chance to come back home with their children and their grandchildren.”
Danielle Stevens said she was happy to bring her children to the event and, for her younger children, Juneteenth served as a learning experience, as well as a fun experience.
“We had a conversation on the way over because my 11-year-old is familiar with slavery and my 5-year-old is not. So, we discussed what that was all about and we said today was a happy day celebrating being freed from all of that,” she said.
Ralfe Sams, another organizer of the event, said he hopes this year’s two-day festival will take hold and that they can eventually expand and make it even bigger and better for those within the community.
“It feels good just to see everybody come together –– different races, different cultures,” Sams said. “Everybody has come together and everybody’s having a good time.”
Roni Loftly, organizer for the Juneteenth celebration, said the event was sponsored by Tri-Cities Entertainment Inc., Herb Greenlee, Carver Recreation, Mecca Bar and Grill, CenturyLink, Tennessee Flags, 92.3 FM and Misty’s Blues and Jazz Bar, with music provided by the Unlimited Band and Leggo Cash Reggae Band.
Dorothy Hawk-Shaw, a professor from East Tennessee State University, was also scheduled to speak at the event Saturday.
The celebration continues at Carver today with Gospel and History Day from 2-5 p.m.