HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - It was all about food, fun and fellowship at the 34th Annual Hattiesburg Juneteenth Festival. Attendees gathered at Vernon Dahmer Park on June 19 to partake in the festivities.
"We have two stages of live entertainment of gospel, hip-hop and R&B and blues on this stage," said executive director and coordinator, Ray Smith. "We got a softball tournament, we have a car show and a great variety of food, arts and crafts."
Juneteenth is celebrated on June 16 to commemorate the announcement of the ending of slavery in Texas. On June 19, 1865, union soldiers led by Major General Gordon Granger traveled to Galveston, Texas to alert the enslaved they were free. The news came two years after then President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which went into effect on Jan. 1, 1863.
"Juneteenth is a bittersweet holiday," said Smith. "It's more than just a celebration. It's an opportunity for us to heal our community, our state and our nation, because it deals with the grassroots slavery on that level."
The smell of barbecue filled the air as various vendors set up throughout the park. There was also something cool for attendees to consume to beat the heat like Italian Ice--- a popular stand at the event. Whether young or old, the celebration had something for everyone to enjoy.
"We've been jumping in the jumpy houses and meeting our family," said 11-year-old Kameron Pittman.
Many say attending the event is a tradition that started since it's creation years ago.
"Well, it's actually something we all look forward to all year long you know just the Juneteenth celebration," said Vanessa Jones. "It's just a celebration of community and friendship and it's just an awesome event for the community."
Organizers hopes it continues to grow and receive support from the community.