Juneteenth Celebration at Fairgrounds Paves the Way for Future Heritage Events

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By Tony R. McCray

2016 Juneteenth Celebration at the Pensacola Fairgrounds provided music, spoken word, food, African art, and a whole lot of dancing.   There were the gospel acts of Heavenly Stars of Pensacola, the Atmore Gospel group of the Sensational Travelers, and Solomon Bozeman and his gospel group and The Sounds of the Gulf Coast.  After the Gospel acts raised the Holy Ghost, the Reggae Group of Top Celebrity Crew led by Earnest Harris raised the memory of the greatest Reggae artist of all time Bob Marley.

Then at 6:00 pm the Southern Soul acts began hitting the main stage with singer Steve Perry blasting his hit songs, “The Booty Roll” and “You Can’t Raise Her”.  L.J. Echols who sings “Hit it from the Back” and “She Dragging That Wagon”; Nelson Curry doing his hit “Sugar Shack”!

Juneteenth, also known as Juneteenth Independence Day or Freedom Day, is a holiday that commemorates the June 19, 1865 announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas, and more generally the emancipation of African-American slaves throughout the Confederate South by President Lincoln.  Celebrated on June 19, the term is a descriptive combination of the month of June and the nineteenth date and is recognized as a state holiday or special day of observance in most states, however not here in Florida.

Juneteenth is one of the oldest African American celebrations in the country. It started shortly after the end of the Civil War, and has been gaining acceptance in recent years in all kinds of communities throughout the country. It is a family-oriented celebration that focuses on community as well as recounting the stories of the rich heritage of the African ancestry and the post slavery experience of the   decades of freedom following the Emancipation Proclamation.

Celebrations may include parades, rodeos, street fairs, cookouts, family reunions, park parties, historical reenactments, or Miss Juneteenth contests.

C.C. Biggs of C.C. Biggs Productions in an interview with the Pensacola Voice thanked the newspaper’s owner, Jacqueline Miles, for her assistance in announcing and covering the event.  He also expressed his gratitude for the promotional help provided by WRNE 980 Radio, Robert Hill, and Vernon Watson.  “We accomplished our goal to present Pensacola as an alternative to Myrtle Beach, North Carolina for a major heritage celebration between biker clubs and non-bikers”.

Tod Shuls, the General Manager of Adventure Motor Sports, agreed with Biggs on Pensacola becoming an alternative to other locations like Myrtle Beach and Panama City, Florida for Gulf Coast and national biker club support to grow events like Juneteenth.  Adventure Motor Sports was a sponsor and a display vendor at the celebration and brought the “Slingshot SL and three-wheeled motor bike that resembles a sports car. Shuls says he is in for the next event in 2017. Hartley Davison was also a sponsor and display vendor for the celebration.

In fact, Biggs announced the 2017 Juneteenth Celebration for the Pensacola Fairgrounds on June 17th next year as he said, “I want to also thank Natalie and the whole fairground staff for their support and professionalism”.  Additionally, I want to thank Rob “Dawg” the Business Manager of the Pensacola Vikings’ Biker Club for being an outstanding co-host, and James Royster, and Tony McCray for their help and involvement in making the Juneteenth Celebration a success.

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