Juneteenth celebration gearing up

File photo Around 3,000 people are expected to attend the annual Juneteenth celebration at Potter Park.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

One man’s dream of everyone celebrating the emancipation of slaves is a 16-year tradition in Clovis.

Saturday, William Hall will begin cooking at 4:30 a.m. for an expected 3,000 people at Potter Park. It’s the annual Juneteenth celebration.

The event commemorates June 19, 1865, the day slaves in Texas received word of their emancipation.

Just after the Civil War ended, blacks in Galveston received word of their freedom on June 19. One legendary aspect of the Juneteenth origins, according to Hall, is the official emancipation took place in Texas on June 16. But word didn’t reach the affected segment of society for another three days.

Hall said it’s a celebration widely recognized nationwide and particularly in the south.

More than 16 years ago, vendors would descend on Sycamore Street for the Juneteenth celebration. Hall said he was bothered by seeing the number of children and others who attended but couldn’t afford to purchase food and enjoy the event.

“We all were sitting around one day at the barber shop and … talking about it,” he said, explaining he concluded he could gather donations and make the event free for all who wanted to attend.

Hall said he and volunteers typically cook 12 to 15 cases of ribs, more than 10 cases of chicken, plus hot links, catfish and side dishes.

“We cook from sunup to sundown. We have us a good time,” he said.

The celebration will begin around 11 a.m.

There will be free swimming at Potter Pool for children, games, singing, a car show and many other activities, he said.

Hall said a large part of the draw to the event is socializing and reuniting with friends and neighbors.

“Most of the older folks come and they sit down and talk about yesterday,” he said, watching the children play and enjoy the festivities.