The first Pontotoc County Juneteenth Freedom Day Parade and Festival is set for Saturday, June 15, in downtown Pontotoc and organizers last week announced instructions for parade participants.
In celebration of Juneteenth African American Independence Day, the six hour event, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., is completely free to the public. Free food and beverages will be provided.
The Pontotoc County Juneteenth Freedom Day Parade and Festival will kickoff at 10 a.m. with a parade down Main Street in Pontotoc.
“The line up for all floats will begin at 8:30 a.m. that morning (June 15) at the Pontotoc Junior High School,” said Danielle Williams, Pontotoc County Juneteenth Committee President. “All other parade entries need to be there by 9 a.m. to begin lining up. The parade will step off promptly at 10 a.m.."
Immediately following the conclusion of the parade an opening ceremony and festival ribbon cutting will be held at the new train shed pavilion at First Choice Bank Gateway located along College and Reynolds Streets in downtown Pontotoc.
The newly opened train shed pavilion will be the site of all the day’s events, including live entertainment from 12 noon until 4 p.m.
Juneteenth, the oldest African American holiday, celebrates the end of slavery in the United States after Major General Gordon Granger and his band of Union soldiers were dispatched to Galveston, TX to inform the last group of captive slaves of their immediate freedom on June 19, 1865, two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation went into affect.
This holiday spread to other cities around the country over the century and today there is a growing push to have it declared a national federal holiday, supported by US Senator Roger Wicker, R-MS.
Williams said she hopes all local residents will embrace and participate in the Juneteenth celebration.
"Pontotoc city and county residents, its surrounding municipalities and neighboring counties are invited to celebrate this important American holiday with a morning parade and float contest, festival opening ceremony and ribbon cutting, and a Freedom Day Festival complete with vendors, games, and live entertainment,” Williams said.
The theme of the 2019 Juneteenth Festival will be “Believe and Achieve."
"The Pontotoc County Juneteenth Committee was formed with the mission to celebrate, educate, and promote positive interactions between all citizens of Pontotoc County to increase acceptance of diversity and encourage the celebration and understanding of African American culture and history,” Williams said.
Live musical entertainment will be featured in the pavilion from 12 noon until 4 p.m. and will include a variety of performances, including R&B, Blues, Soul, Hip Hop, and gospel.
The Pontotoc County Juneteenth Freedom Day Festival will include vendors, giveaways, live entertainment, a kids' zone, a Juneteenth history exhibit, yard games, and a 3 point shootout contest. There is no fee for participation in any of these activities, including vendor space and all who are interested in participating are welcomed and encouraged to do so.
Sponsors of the first Juneteenth Festival currently include First Choice Bank, Renasant Bank, Peoples Finance, Pontotoc City Clerk, Melinda Nowicki, Pontotoc Alderwoman, Lena Chewe, Amazing Touch Hair Design, Pontotoc Shell, Reeder’s Farm Supply, East Baptist Church, and College Hill CME Church.