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Juneteenth takes over Midtown Greenway to celebrate freedom
Event marks end of slavery
Tiffany Young, a historian and preservationist, talks about traditional African musical instruments and Geechee culture at the annual Juneteenth celebration at Midtown Greenway on Saturday, June 13, 2015. - photo by Erin O. Smith

People came out Saturday to celebrate the third annual Juneteenth, a Celebration of Freedom Event held at Midtown Greenway at 682 Grove St. in Gainesville.

Hosted by the Gainesville-Hall County Black History Society, the free event was from 4-8 p.m. and included a variety of activities for the entire family. Vendor booths lined the walkways offering everything from homemade sweets and barbecue, to artist booths featured different types of art, jewelry and accessories and clothing.

Bubbles and face painting entertained the younger crowds, as people enjoyed the music, readings and demonstrations performed throughout the event.

“It’s important for the community to have events like this so people can come out and bring the kids,  just buy and network, sit back and relax and listen to music,” said Jessica Stephens, chair of the Gainesville-Hall County Black History Society.

In addition to a disc jockey, live music was performed by Been There Done That, Grilled Cheez, with individuals like Tiana Young Ford and Tiffany Young getting the crowd involved as they performed.

“We just wanted to make people aware of black history and when the slaves were actually freed in Texas, and this is basically our independence day,” Stephens said.

In May 2013, 43 U.S. states and the District of Columbia officially recognized Juneteenth as a state holiday or a special day of observance that commemorates the abolishment of slavery in the United States and gives all Americans the opportunity to recognize American freedom and African-American history.

For Jerry Castleberry of Gainesville, it is a day to celebrate. Castleberry is an inactive member of Gainesville-Hall County Black History Society and has attended all three years.

“It’s basically something that we’ve never celebrated up until 2013. Barbara Brooks spearheaded it and here we are, three years running now,” Castleberry said. Brooks, former chair of Gainesville-Hall County Black History Society was initially the driving force behind the Juneteenth Celebration.

“It’s still so new that I think as we go on it will get more noticed and then more participation,” Castleberry said.

With food vendors like Cowboy Ricky and Fair Street-Butler High Schools Alumni Association, which was raising money for its scholarship fund, everyone found something to satisfy their cravings. Sherone Mattox came looking for the barbecue, the source of the aroma that filled the park.

A lifelong Gainesville resident, Mattox heard about the event from her sister and came out to see what it was all about.

“I love music, any type of music. I mean how can you be angry listening to music? How can you be angry while you’re eating? And if they were dancing that’d be even better,” Mattox said.

There with her sister, Mattox knew the event was going to be fun, and she took a moment to take it all in.

“It’s a little hot but that’s Georgia’s weather. So we’re going to circle around and see what the vendors have. I don’t know, I might have a booth one day,” Mattox said.