11th Annual Juneteenth Community Festival

The free Juneteenth Community Festival recognizes one of the oldest African American recognized celebrations that mark the end of slavery in the United States.

Lee County Black History Society, Dunbar Festival Committee and the African Coalition of Southwest Florida are partnering to host the 11th Annual Juneteenth Community Celebration at Roberto Clemente Park, 1936 Henderson Ave. in Fort Myers from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, June 17. The event is free to attend.

This year’s Juneteenth Celebration will be filled with a variety of fun and entertainment for the entire family, including stage performances, music, arts and crafts, food and refreshments. Event attendees will also have a chance to receive free information from community businesses in wealth, health, education, job training, employment, housing, corporate and governmental services and more.

“It’s a celebration day that we honor the fact that this ended slavery but also for us to understand the endurance of our people,” said Charles Barnes, chairperson of the society. “Our ancestors went through that process and were successful and survived, so that we can be where we are today.”

Juneteenth, which has been celebrated since the late 1800s was finally recognized as a federal holiday in 2021. A special historical exhibit about Florida’s Emancipation Day May 20 and Juneteenth will be available at Williams Academy Black History Museum at Clemente Park at the festival and through the end of June.

Juneteenth is always observed on or around June 19, the day that slaves in Galveston, Texas, learned that they had been freed, more than two years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger landed in Galveston and read General Order Number 3 to the people. Celebrations started in the following years as a way for former slaves to reconnect and recount the day their freedom was announced. Many of the first Juneteenth celebrations were held on the grounds of African American churches and eventually became more elaborate with rodeos, picnics, barbecues, fishing trips and family reunions.

Interested vendors or exhibitors should contact the Dunbar Festival Committee at martinbyrd@dunbarfestival.org.

This event was featured in the Naples Daily News and News-Press.