ELKIN — A whole hog barbecue cookoff amidst the backdrop of bounce houses and more than 25 vendors will continue the rebounding festival season in Elkin this Saturday, with a Juneteenth Festival at The Heritage Center presented by the nonprofit Bridge of Unity. Bridge of Unity was founded in the early summer of 2020.
“We exist to promote positive dialog and seek to unite the community in peace, love and equity,” said Greg Brewer, of Elkin, who is Bridge of Unity’s vice president. “We try to find ways to bring people together and unite the common bonds of humans.”
Barbecue contestants are coming to Elkin from around the state, and all-you-can-eat plates are $20 per person with sampling starting at 3 p.m. Saturday. The event, which also offers a smattering of food trucks, is a family-friendly affair with many kids’ field-day style events in addition to the bounce house. Live music will serenade festival-goers throughout the event. A comedy show at Coley Hall at The Liberty concludes the festival that evening.
“I’m about unity, peace and community,” said Sly Best, who said the festival is being held on Juneteenth because it is the first holiday available since the pandemic restrictions have eased. “It’s a beautiful holiday.”
Juneteenth recognizes the final slaves being freed in the United States, which occurred in Texas more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Organizers of the Elkin event said the intention of the festival is focused primarily on bringing the community together.
“They care about the food, having music and the people,” said Best, owner of Midtown Barber on Main Street in Elkin and also the CEO of a sports education-focused nonprofit called I Support My Community.
Festival sponsors include: G&B, Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital, GTS, Coley Hall, Nancy’s Homecare Services, L&L Home Improvements, ONE by Prism, Simmons Nissan, RDR Automotive, Dirty Joe’s, Spencer Funeral Home, Duke Energy, Food Lion, LuBella Hardwood Floors, Aloha Nails & Spa, SuperSports, Unique Transportation, Pepsi, Styles by Schuyler, Dr. Chad Mann, Clive Marshall, William Boyd II, and Donnie Bryant.
According to an essay by Earl Ijames, Curator for African American History at the North Carolina Museum of History:
“Juneteenth was a freedom and celebration first observed on June 19, 1865, in Galveston, Texas, when Union General Gordon Granger arrived with the news of the Confederate surrenders in Virginia and North Carolina. Enslaved African American men and women were to be emancipated throughout the former Confederate States of America. Texas was the furthest west of the eleven states, and the Emancipation Proclamation, issued on January 1, 1863, had never been enforced there.
“That changed with the Confederate surrender, and on June 19, 1865, slavery was officially abolished in the state of Texas.
“Rewinding back, the news of the January 1865 fall of Fort Fisher to the United States Colored Troops triggered the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which outlawed slavery in the United States and places subject to its jurisdiction.
“In April 1865, the surrenders of Confederate General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Courthouse, V.A. and General Joseph E. Johnston at Bennett Place in Durham, N.C. led to the Civil War ending. The surrender at Bennett Place on April 26, 1865, resulted in approximately 90,000 Confederate Troops laying down their arms, the largest surrender of the Civil War, and marked the final surrender of the Confederate Army.”
Watch the museum’s YouTube video about Juneteenth at www.ncmusuemofhistory.org/blog/juneteenth.
Lisa Michals may be reached at 336-448-4968 or follow her on Twitter @lisamichals3.