Celebrating freedom

Nathaniel Jones, 2, waves with Vonsha McGowan to the Dem Plain’o Cowboyz float on the route of the 2017 Juneteenth Parade that ran from Kemp Elementary School to Sadie Thomas Memorial Park in Bryan. 

As the Texas-based annual celebration of the announcement of the end of slavery in the United States approaches, the Brazos Valley will host a number of parades and other events — most of them designed for people of all ages — to commemorate Juneteenth. 

 Juneteenth is a holiday marking the arrival in Galveston of Union troops on June 19, 1865 — two months after Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House. When Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger came ashore in Galveston, he issued General Orders No. 3 announcing that “in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, ‘all slaves are free.’

“This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.”

More than 250,000 enslaved persons in Texas were freed, sparking celebrations. Although the day has Texas roots, it is observed to varying degrees nationwide.

On Saturday, just before 10 a.m., the Juneteenth Parade will begin at Kemp Elementary School, proceed along Martin Luther King Jr. Street and end at Sadie Thomas Park. The Celebration in the Park event will start at noon and end at 3 p.m. There will be free face painting, train rides, bounce houses and more for kids. The annual dance contest will start at 12:30 p.m. Local vendors will be on site. 

 Blues Fest will take place Saturday from 6-10 p.m. at the Palace Theater in Downtown Bryan and will feature a number of musical acts and performances.

 The Lincoln Recreation Center in College Station will host the Juneteenth Freedom Walk and Celebration June 19, starting at 9 a.m. The 2.2-mile walk will conclude at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum with a storytelling event. 

The Lincoln Center’s Tarrow Pavilion will host Praises at the Pavilion on the evening of June 19 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. According to Cheletia Johnson, the center’s supervisor, Praises at the Pavilion is in its fifth year and will feature dance routines, appearances by area pastors and leaders, and gospel songs by a rotating group of musicians.

 The Juneteenth Art Festival will take place June 18 between 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. at the Clara B. Mounce Public Library in Downtown Bryan. The come-and-go event will include art activities for people of all ages.

 The Brazos Valley African American Museum will host fantasy and folklore author Bruce Van Alstyne on June 19 from 5-7 p.m. as part of its Juneteenth commemoration. Van Alstyne “draws on his experiences as a chef making cakes, cookies, sugarplums and other tasty confections,” according to the museum’s website. “As a Navy veteran, Mr. Van Alstyne has traveled the world learning about local folklore and mythology.” 

The event is free, but the museum requests attendees RSVP at bvaam.org.

On June 22, the Washington-on-the Brazos State Historic Site will have its third annual Juneteenth Heritage Celebration, which will feature a buffalo soldiers re-enactment group, musical performances, food trucks, activities for kids and other attractions from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the park’s grounds. Admission to the park is free.

 For more information, go to wheretexasbecametexas.org/plan-your-visit/special-events/ or search “Washington-on-the Brazos State Historic Site” on Facebook and click on the Events page.

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