Utahans have been celebrating Juneteenth for over 50 years. Juneteenth is an annual event in which the world comes together to remember the freedom of slaves. Many states celebrate Juneteenth across the United States. Some of these states include New York, Texas, California, and Utah.
In Utah, Juneteenth is celebrated in Ogden. The festival celebrates the culture, heritage, and history of African Americans. It includes guest speakers and live entertainment.
“Being from California, I am used to being a part of, as well as enjoying fun activities twenty-four seven. Utah doesn’t have as much entertainment to offer as did California. In essence I get to create my own source of entertainment,” says Carey Drisdom.
Drisdom is the Artistic Entertainment Director for the Juneteenth celebration and a student of Salt Lake Community College.
Drisdom played an intricate role in designating the artists for the show and is in charge of the entertainment line-up. The entertainment includes singers and dancers of different ethnic backgrounds and of different ages.
“Each year keeps getting better and better. During the weekend about 8,000 people are in attendance,” says Betty Sawyer. Sawyer has been the coordinator for 20 years and allowed Drisdom the privilege of joining the team.
“One thing I would like to happen is that all of the communities come together and support one another. We do a lot of things separate and it would be nice to have some events together. Drisdom has made a valiant effort to bring cultures together for this African American event,” says Sawyer.
Not only does Juneteenth celebrate the African American culture, it encourages the acceptance and respect of all cultures. Back in 1865, the celebration was a time for reassuring one another, praying for one another, and gathering remaining family members who had been scattered due to separation caused by the selling of slaves to different buyers.
Juneteenth honors the day freedom was proclaimed for all slaves in the south by Union General Granger in Galveston, Texas. It was named after the month and date in which the proclamation was announced, June 19, 1865. More than two and a half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln.
For the first time in over 130 years of the annual celebration, the President and Congress of the United States have finally officially recognized Juneteenth as Juneteenth Independence Day in America.
“After all the intense work put into the festival, I hope to give back to the community what it has given to me. The city of Ogden has been so gracious to us for almost 20 years. This is a time where people young and old can be enlightened and enjoy some beautiful food and fellowship,” says Drisdom, “It has been the most wonderful and taxing experience at the same time. I’m blessed, I hope everybody comes out to have fun with us.”
Everyone is welcome to attend the Juneteenth Festival. The entry is $5 per person or $20 per family. It will be held in the Ogden Amphitheater located at 2549 Washington Boulevard in Ogden Utah. The hours of celebration are Friday, June 18 from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, June 19 from 12 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday June 20 from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.
For more information about the Utah Juneteenth Festival, log on to juneteenthutah.org.