Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Juneteenth celebrations in Wyoming

Juneteenth celebrations are held in two Wyoming communities -- Cheyenne and Casper -- on Saturday, June 21. While Juneteenth is no novelty in most parts of the U.S., the Cheyenne event is just eight years old. Local NAACP Director Thomas Rudolph was the guiding force for Juneteenth, but sought some organizational help from the Cheyenne Family YMCA six years ago. My wife, Chris, heads up the YMCA efforts and serves on the planning committee. This Saturday's celebration starts with a 10 a.m. march from the Wyoming Capitol Building at 24th and Capitol and will go to Martin Luther King, Jr., Park along Crow Creek near Missile Drive. Festivities get underway at 11 a.m. and will go to 4 p.m. There will be events and kids, and a 3-on-3 basketball tourney will be held for teens and adults. A full line-up of music, hip-hop and dance groups will performing. The Laramie County Democrats will staff an information table, as well as the Gary Trauner for Congress campaign. Food vendors, too. Last year I ate some great barbecue cooked by Gloradean Stephenson and her husband. For more info, call the YMCA at 307-634-9622.

Also on Saturday, Casper will hold its Juneteenth celebration. Featured will be food, vendors, entertainment, games, barbecue, art displays, and a 1865 costume contest. Festivities begin at 4 p.m. at Riverview Park (north side). FMI: Pastor William, 307-267-3902, 237-0831.

Juneteenth is officially celebrated on June 19. It marks the day in 1865 that federal troops entered Galveston, Texas, and reissued the declaration that freed the slaves. Although Pres. Abraham Lincoln announced the Emancipation Proclamation on Sept. 22, 1862, and it took effect Jan. 1, 1863, black slaves in the South knew little about it. Once the news spread, African-Americans in Galveston celebrated in a big way, and the date went down in history as Juneteenth. It's an official state holiday in some places, but celebrated in most of the U.S. with weekend celebrations such as the ones in Cheyenne and Casper.

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