Juneteenth organizers plan to serve up a slice of history along with healthy portions of brisket, snocones and fried chicken.
The city’s 31st annual event is set for 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, marking the 151st anniversary of the day Gen. Gordon Granger landed in Galveston and informed the Texas slaves that they had been freed two years before by the Emancipation Proclamation. Black Texans have celebrated June 19, or Juneteenth, ever since with games, barbecue and community gatherings.
“You need to know where you’ve been so you know where you’re going,” said Sylvester Adams, one of the event’s organizers. “It’s the food that brings them in, the good food.”
The free celebration at McClendon Park West will feature a lot of food, especially barbecue, and attendees are asked to bring a side dish or a dessert to share. Organizers will provide meats, drinks, condiments and snocones. Serving times will be 12:30-1:30 p.m. and 2:30-4:30 p.m.
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“Each year it grows bigger and bigger,” said Brenda Steele, who helps organize the event. “If you cannot bring anything, a donation would be appreciated, $5 or $10.”
Organizers are expecting at least 500 people for the annual party, they said.
To entertain the crowd, there will be a disc jockey, adult and kid games, bounce houses and door prizes, plus a performance by a local step dance team.
And there will be a history lesson, promise organizers Brenda Norwood and Steele, both teachers in the Mansfield school district.
“Back in the day, people talked to us, the elderly talked to us about the history of Juneteenth,” Norwood said. “People take it for granted. Kids today don’t know about Juneteenth. You need to know what people have been through. You need to know the significance of Texas history.”
And kids are interested, Steele said.
“When I start talking about things I have experienced, they stop,” she said. “They want to know the history, we just don’t tell them.”
The event is for the entire community, organizers say, regardless of race.
“You don’t look at the color of a person’s skin,” Norwood said. “It’s a must that we come together.”
Just getting the community to come to the event was difficult not that long ago.
“Mansfield was big on Juneteenth when I was a little girl,” said Norwood, 67. “Then the organizers died out. When Norman and I got together, we decided to restart it.”
But it wasn’t easy, admits Norman Norwood.
“When we first started, I couldn’t get the community to come,” he said. “I said ‘I don’t want to sell anything, let’s just give it away.’ We started in the yard and moved to the park and nobody showed up.”
Three decades later, the celebration draws people from all backgrounds to share in food and fellowship.
“It’s a great way to get to know your community,” Steele said. “Mansfield really is a good community.”
Mansfield Juneteenth Celebration
11 a.m.-7 p.m. June 25
McClendon Park West
799 W. Broad St.
Free; bring a dish to share