The 32nd annual Bastrop Juneteenth Celebration featured a banquet on Friday saluting veterans and awarding scholarships, a parade on Saturday followed by an Emancipation Program and a free street dance that night.
One of the highlights of the banquet on Friday night was honoring local area veterans who are active, retired or deceased. Many were present to be honored and received a plaque for their service. Those honored by branch of service were: in the army, Sgt. Kathryn A. Bethel (active), Victor Green, Joel Reed, Rev. Jacob Sanders, Larry Darnell Monk, Alcie Charles Peterson Jr., Willie Smith Sr., Doris Williams, Georgia Hunter, Willie Lewis “Bill” Peterson, Leroy Woodard, Robert C. Smith, Willie Lee Culberson, Walter Lewis Greene Jr., Vernon Sutton, James Franklin, Gary Jefferson, Zimmon Whitter and Elroy Williams; in the navy, Rev. Ronald Carter, Kenneth Strain, Brian Anderson, and Robert L. Shipp Jr.; in the air force, Rev. Charles A Williams Jr., Monique Lewis, Brandon Ray Warren, Robert James McIntyre, Rev. Fred D. Blackman Jr., Charles Lewis Lee, Floyd Thompson, Bernard Blake Sr., Tommy “T. C.” Clemons, Clarence Robertson, Larry Jackson Sr., Aaron Taylor Jr., Namon Bernard Mills, Vernon Mcintyre and Janice E. Shipp; and in the Marine Corps, Phillip Glascoe. Fallen heros Alcie Charles Peterson Sr., Rev. Robert D. Smith, Dock Lee Jackson Sr., Otis Jackson and Julius Thomas (a prisoner of war) were honored with a memorial candle lighting ceremony.
Scholarships were awarded to Tyrone D. Wilson Jr. of Bastrop High School and Taylor Stewart of Cedar Creek High School.
The parade in downtown Bastrop on historic Main Street featured cars from the 12th Annual Blue Flame Cruisers Car Show held at the Bastrop Convention Center. Many other entries including city officials, youth groups and entries from in and around Bastrop County cruised through the downtown parade.
The Emancipation Program which followed the parade was led by Bastrop Juneteenth Committee president Pam Aldridge. The welcome was given by veteran and committee member Doris Williams, who is part of the national movement to make Juneteenth/Emancipation Day a national holiday. Bastrop Mayor Pro Tem Lyle Nelson read the joint proclamation from the City of Bastrop and Bastrop County. The keynote speaker was Bishop Nathan Thomas of Fresh Impact Family Church, who challenged the audience to get involved in the community. Gospel music was very much a part of the program as choirs and soloists from Celebration Church featuring Pastor John Eason, Vickie Eason, Nicoli Cervantes and minister Clark Jackson stirred the soul of the audience, along with soloists Sandra Moore and Barbara Anderson from Lone Star Church Community Choir and the Blessed Hope Ministries singers. Gospel great Eliza Fanuel from Hill’s Prairie closed out the program with a very moving solo and testimonial experience, which had the audience on their feet stomping, clapping, shouting and praising with Fanuel.
Saturday afternoon featured more events with the Blue Flame Cruisers Car Show and numerous family reunions, along with the viewing of the Freedom Colonies Exhibit at the Bastrop Historical Museum. Special hours were scheduled for the visitors and locals to view the exhibit and help add insight into the many communities represented by the descendants of slaves. The exhibit runs through September. Visitors were also asked to identify photos from the former all-African American school, Emile High, which were available at the museum. This marks the 50th year since the last segregated class graduated from Emile. A future exhibit and historical marker is in the works for the school and additional artifacts, photographs and history are needed for this project.
The weekend closed out with the ever-popular free street dance Saturday night in downtown Bastrop on Main Street. Musical entertainment featured live music from Mz.Dre and 2OneSoul. The Bastrop Juneteenth Committee and the Blue Flame Cruisers events reported good participation but hope to get even more support next year as they add additional events, and they plan to join in with the Emile School Reunion Committee and the City of Bastrop in expanding the event.