Elgin celebrates two decades of Juneteenth festivals
Elginites marked their 20th annual Juneteenth celebration with dancing, parades and a festival this past weekend.
Juneteenth is a Texas holiday celebrating the effects of the Emancipation Proclamation reaching Texas on June 19, 1865, finally freeing slaves in Texas over two years after the proclamation was first issued. The day became an important day of celebration for African-American Texans. In 1987, a group of volunteers organized the Bastrop Juneteenth Celebration, bringing together people from across the county to celebrate Juneteenth, until Elgin established its own Juneteenth event in 1999. This year marks the 20th annual Juneteenth Celebration in Elgin.
The celebration kicked off on Friday night with a street dance from 8 p.m. until midnight at Veterans Memorial Park. Music from all genres was provided by Darsche Reese, also known as DJ ReeseBoi, and the park was filled with vendors selling a wide variety of goods and food. As the sun went down and the day began to cool off, people danced, visited and enjoyed the music.
People filled downtown again the next morning to watch the Juneteenth Parade at 10 a.m., which featured fire trucks, cars, a dance team and more. Immediately after the parade, everyone headed back to Veterans Memorial Park for a festival which included food, vendors, music and entertainment.
After Byron Mitchell read the City of Elgin proclamation for Juneteenth, he and Bishop Mayes chapter presented former Elgin Police Chief Chris Bratton with a lifetime membership award for the NAACP. Later that day, the Elgin Juneteenth Organization recognized two of their scholarship award winners—Janayja Jones and Camari Stiggers—for their hard work and academic achievements.
Elgin Juneteenth Organization president Bettye Lofton said this year’s celebration had a great turnout, and the vendors had a very successful day, with many being sold out by the end.
Since this is the 20th year of hosting a Juneteenth celebration in Elgin, Lofton said they wanted to make it special. This year, for the first time ever, they had the Elgin Wildcat Band in the parade. Usually the band is only able to perform at one event each summer, so they perform at Western Days; however, for this 20th anniversary celebration, Elgin High School band director Armando Martinez made a special effort to bring the band to Juneteenth, Lofton said. Additionally, this is the first year they have hosted a dance contest for children at the street dance.
“They really enjoyed themselves this year,” Lofton said, “starting from the street dance on Friday night all the way to Saturday afternoon.”