Even the hot, muggy weather couldn’t dampen the festive attitude of those who marched a mile from City Hall Park to the Washington High School Gymnasium on Saturday morning.
Instead, the paraders danced and sang and chatted happily with neighbors, celebrating Juneteenth and that the rain held off allowing for the annual celebration to take place.
“I’m super happy with this year’s turnout,” said Marquita Thompkins, who helped to organize this year’s Juneteenth event,” especially with the weather being iffy and the forecasts actually being worse than the actual weather.”
Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. It marks the anniversary of the announcement of General Order No. 3 on June 19, 1865, proclaiming freedom for enslaved people in Texas.
Originating in Galveston, the holiday has since been celebrated annually on June 19 in various parts of the United States
The day was officially recognized as a federal holiday on June 17 of 2021 with the signing of the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act.
According to Dannie Bolden, the vice president of the North Port St. Joe Project Area Coalition, who also helped to plan the Juneteenth festivities, the community has been regularly celebrating the holiday since 2005.
“Back in 2005, when (my family) had returned (to Port St. Joe) from Alaska, we realized that this event, the Juneteenth celebration, was not being recognized or appreciated in the community of North Port St. Joe, and we had so much to be thankful for,” Bolden said.
“We felt that Juneteenth would be a great time to bring the community together to really sort of look at the historical basis behind the freedom from slavery, but also a time to bring people together to celebrate the community, and its culture, and its history and its heritage.”
This year was Port St. Joe’s largest Juneteenth celebration to date, with two days packed full of activities.
Following the parade on Saturday morning, locals and tourists gathered in the Washington High Gym to browse vendor booths, eat food and play on bounce houses. Saturday evening, a jazz concert was held on the Washington High School baseball field. The following day, locals gathered for a Fathers Day brunch and gospel concert before taking to the neighborhood streets and partaking in a community block party until late that evening.
“I can see the growth in Juneteenth even from last year,” said Thompkins. “I have high hopes that each year is going to continue to get bigger and bigger.”
“… We will take maybe two weeks off, and then we’ll all meet up and start planning again for next year.”