Celebrate Juneteenth this weekend

Nadirah Rahman of La’Ney African Dance Troupe at the 2012 Juneteenth festival WWD-F
Nadirah Rahman of La’Ney African Dance Troupe at the 2012 Juneteenth festival WWD-F

This time of year, some people are thinking about getting out of town for a summer vacation. But the nice weather and long days also make this season a good time for local exploration.

The Hillcrest community hosts the third annual Juneteenth festival on Saturday, June 22. It's an important day for the neighborhood, which is geographically isolated from the rest of the city. (It borders the French Broad River on one side and I-26 and I-240 at its remaining edges.)

“[Juneteenth] is an opportunity for the whole city of Asheville to come to a place where most people probably haven't been before,” says Nicole Hinebaugh, director of programs at Women's Wellbeing and Development Foundation, which partners with the Hillcrest Resident Association for the event. “A lot of the public housing neighborhoods here are pretty isolated. Hillcrest is one-way-in, one-way-out. It's not the kind of place that you drive through on your way to somewhere else.”

The festival commemorates the abolition of slavery in America. It's celebrated nationwide. “It got started June 19 of 1865, so a few years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed,” Hinebaugh says. “That's when Texas declared that slaves were free. Right there in Galveston, Texas, people just started celebrating. That celebration, ever since then, has been known as Juneteenth.”

The celebration runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and includes music, dance, speeches, a basketball tournament, kids' activities and a free cook out that features burgers and vegetarian options. Community cooks will participate in a fried chicken cook-off, so samples of their work will also be available.

Juneteenth takes place in Hillcrest Field at 100 Atkinson St. For more information, contact WWD-F at 255-8777.

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