The Civil War has long since ended and slaves freed, but the spirit of the historic occasion lives on in Las Vegas during the 9th Annual Juneteenth Festival.
The national celebration of Juneteenth was precipitated after Union soldiers, lead by Maj. Gen. George Granger, landed in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865 and made a proclamation that the Civil War had ended and the slaves were free– nearly 2 ½ years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.
Despite the holiday falling into obscurity at the start of the 20th century, as many blacks migrated north and became separated from the roots of the tradition, and early ordinances forbid the celebration of Juneteenth on public property, the celebration has since rapidly gained steam and become a longtime tradition, especially in the South. Historically, it was celebrated with fishing outings and barbecues on local church grounds.
Juneteenth is a family-oriented Las Vegas event, including carnival games, art and craft booths, speakers, plenty of vendors hawking their wares, and, what would this festival be if not plenty of barbecued chicken and fried catfish– but no beer.
Scheduled performers include Grammy award-winning singer Najee, the Australian doo-wop group and Imperial Palace headliners Human Nature, “step” group Molodi, comedian and Flamingo headliner George Wallace and the cast members from Stomp Out Loud, who will join Skip Martin, lead singer of the platinum-selling funk-pop super group Kool & The Gang, as the headlining acts for the annual citywide celebration.
The Las Vegas Juneteenth Festival will conclude today, Saturday, running from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., at the Sammy Davis, Jr. Plaza in Lorenzi Park, located a few blocks west on Washington Avenue past Rancho Boulevard. Admission is free.