Juneteenth cookout coming to St. Albans on June 19; Holiday memorializes emancipation | News

Poster for the St. Albans Community Juneteenth event. Since the poster was designed, event organizer Reier Erickson said the Pride part of the event has been changed.


ST. ALBANS — In the wake of Juneteenth becoming a federal holiday, St. Albans will get its first public Juneteenth celebration when the holiday arrives June 19.

Event organizer Reier Erickson said he had held a private Juneteenth cookout last year after a public event fell apart, but this year, he’s hoping St. Albans residents will come together to celebrate the holiday.

To do so, he and other event organizers are planning to hold a block party in the parking lot shared by the Saint Albans Museum and St. Paul’s United Methodist Church.

During the event from 2-6 pm, attendees can grab some free food, such as hot dogs and hamburgers, provided by sponsors and event organizers. Local nonprofits will also be setting up tents and booths to hand out information to the community.

Erickson said the goal is to create an open, inclusive environment to celebrate Juneteenth.

The federal holiday commemorates the day when Black slaves in Texas first learned about the Emancipation Proclamation signed in Pennsylvania. By the time the news arrived down south, two years had gone by.

Since that time, Juneteenth has been celebrated in various parts of the country – usually in areas with larger densities of Black people – and it gained national prominence after the death of George Floyd.

“It’s kind of foreign for people who may not know a lot of Black people,” Erickson said. “It’s an important holiday absent from many people’s lives, and I’m glad to see it going mainstream.”

When first putting together the event, organizers had considered creating a larger event to pair Juneteenth with LGBT Pride Month (also in June), but the idea received pushback.

At the time, he said that he wasn’t comfortable with a holiday typically celebrated by the larger Black community being paired with an LGBT event.

To change-up the event, Erickson said he reached out to the Saint Albans Museum and St. Paul’s to see if they’d be interested in hosting them, and he said both jumped on the chance.

As a result, attendees will now be able to check out the museum, free-of-charge, during the event to see the newly-created exhibit that recounts the region’s history with abolition, “Untold Stories, Unheard Voices.”

Event sponsors for the Juneteenth event include Spectrum, Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity, Voices Against Violence, Groennfell Meadery, Lawson’s Finest Liquids and Neighbors for a Safer St. Albans.

“This year, we wanted to make it a bigger celebration. We wanted to make it a more public event,” Erickson said. “We hope people come out, stop on by and grab a hot dog.”

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