SEBRING — For the 15th year, Robert Saffold and other Sebring residents are organizing the annual Juneteenth Festival this Saturday, which will celebrate the freedom of Texas slaves and the Emancipation Proclamation.
For Saffold, while the event will feature music, food, children’s events and participation by various groups, it’s a lot more than that.
“It’s a learning thing,” he said. “It’s about history.”
Although President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation Sept. 22, 1862, the slaves in Texas were not freed until June 18 and June 19, 1865, he said. That resulted in the celebration called “Juneteenth.”
So that more people can attend, the festival is held on a Saturday.
Texas began celebrating Juneteenth officially in 1980, but it had informally been recognizing it before then, Saffold said.
Besides celebrating the emancipation, the event is aimed at “bringing our community together,” he said. People of all nationalities and races are encouraged to attend so that the community will be closer and all people will feel more part of the community, he added.
The festival in Sebring will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, June 21, at Bountiful Blessing Field, 820 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., across from Bountiful Blessings Church of God.
At 11:15 a.m., a history of Juneteenth will be held and at 11:30 a.m. and the Highlands County Historical Society will make a presentation.
Orlando Power Stars will begin performing at noon and continue through much of the afternoon.
Primal Connection will also perform from 10:45 to 11:15 a.m.
From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the event will feature continuously operating venders, trade shows and exhibits. Event attractions for the kids will include five bounce houses, lawn bowling, games, snow cones and popcorn.
At 10:30 a.m., a welcome and invocations will occur. A closing prayer will be held at 4 p.m., followed by closing of the festival and cleanup.
Those who would like to help with the event can make checks payable to either Washington Heights Concerned Citizens Inc. or the Florida Sportsman Association and send the checks to Saffold at 608 Bowman Ave., Sebring, FL 33870.