Residents celebrate Juneteenth

CNJ staff photo: Kevin Wilson Juneteenth-goers grab drinks to go with their barbecue at Potter Park.

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

Doug McAdams plans his vacation around the end of June every year, and his trek from Dallas to his hometown of Clovis has become a tradition.

And as he stood Saturday, manning a smoker full of chicken at Potter Park, he took part in two more traditions — Juneteenth, and losing an argument.

“I say it every year: ‘I’m coming for vacation, I’m not cooking,’” said McAdams, son of event organizer William Hall, “and I end up on the grill.”

Count him as one of numerous volunteers at the park Saturday, cooking up free food for hours to mark the weekend of June 18-19, 1865, when Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to enforce the emancipation of slaves. Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States.

“The people that came before us didn’t have a chance to celebrate,” said Hall. “We’re going to celebrate for them.”

Hall, nicknamed “Pill” because an uncle once said he was hard to swallow, manned the park with an apron and willingness to have a friendly chat with anyone. Saturday was three months in the making, and he and other organizers hit up area businesses for donations to keep the event free.

Elsewhere in the park, McAdams wasn’t the only one doing something they personally opposed. The volunteer line went from McAdams and other cookers to volunteers sorting and cutting food, then to volunteers like Tonya Anaya of Clovis. By mid-afternoon, Anaya, a vegetarian, had probably given away half of her body weight in chicken, hot links and ribs.

“They ask me if it’s good,” Anaya said with a pause and a laugh. “I tell them, ‘I think so.’”

The visitors can then grab a drink from a tub filled with ice and water and find a seat in the park. From there, they can enjoy the pool, stop by informational booths or listen to music and speeches from a microphone

Hall stresses that Juneteenth is a cause for celebration, and the best way to honor the history of the occasion is to enjoy an improved standard of living and make a commitment to make things even better for upcoming generations.

“Because everyone helps,” Hall said, “we can keep this free so it don’t cost anything but time to come down and do a little talking about old times. Our ancestors paid for us, so we’re going to make the most of it.”