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Collinsville prepares for Juneteenth festivities

Standing left to right: Officer Ronald McClellan, BSU members – Ember Breeding, Ashay Hopkins, Jleah Smith and Nu Gamma member Jeuan Mitchell and kneeling is BSU co-sponsor James Alexander pose in front of the honorary Juneteenth flag at last year’s festival.

By Devese “Dee” Ursery

Collinsville High School Black Student Union is hosting the third annual Juneteenth Festival to promote African-American culture and the freedom to express it unapologetically. 

Festivities hosted by the BSU in Collinsville commemorate the federal holiday, which draws its name from the June 19 proclamation of freedom for slaves in Texas. The holiday is now celebrated throughout the United States as an expression of African-American culture. 

The Juneteenth Festival hosted by the BSU is a two-part, two-day celebration, which will take place at two different locations. The Juneteenth Fun Festival is a family-friendly event from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday, June 17, in Woodland Park. The Annual Juneteenth Festival will have more of an adult appeal and will take place noon to 8 p.m. on Monday, June 19, at Old Herald Brewery and Distillery. 

CHS students from the BSU have banned together to put on a program which highlights African-American culture. JoAnna Kelly, counselor and sponsor for the BSU explained why a Juneteenth Festival is necessary. 

“After becoming the sponsor for the Black Student Union at the high school, I knew we should take on the task of making sure our citizens not only understand the importance of Juneteenth, but are also given a chance to celebrate together,” Kelly said.

Kelly said the notion of having a Juneteenth Festival in Collinsville has always been on her mind. To see the growth and manifestation of it, has truly been a joy to her. 

This is the third year that the BSU has sponsored the event and acknowledged all of the organizations that back their efforts. Kelly thanked Old Herald Brewery for allowing them to use their facilities and the men of Nu Gamma Sigma Alumni Chapter for their service. She also praised the Collinsville Parks Department for allowing the use of the park free of charge. 

“This city hosts major events for the Italian Fest, Fourth of July and other holidays and the importance of making sure that all citizens are celebrated is a topic that is near and dear to my heart,” Kelly said.

The first day of festivities will be full of fun child-friendly activities with over 30 vendors, carnival-style games, music, face painting and food for them to enjoy. There will also be a 3-on-3 basketball tournament, kickball tournament and a big 5,000 water balloon fight set up, which will all be free. 

On Monday, June 19, the last day of the event will feature live entertainment such as music, poets and dancers. There will also be vendors on the final day as well.

“We started our celebrations before it was a national holiday, so it feels good to see the rest of the world finally starting to see its importance,” Kelly said.

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