By Alyssa Schnugg
Folks living in the Martin Luther King Jr. Drive neighborhood have been gathering with friends and family for more than 15 years to celebrate Juneteenth.
The event grew yearly from a small neighborhood block party as more community members joined in on the celebration.
“In the first couple of years, we had about 10 vendors,” said Kesha Howell-Atkinson, organizer and Oxford alderman. “This year, we have 55 vendors, which will probably increase over the next couple of days.”
This year’s main celebration will take place from 3:30 to 8 p.m. on Saturday.
Due to its growth over the years, the celebration moved from the streets in the Martin Luther King Drive neighborhood into the nearby Oxford Intermediate School parking lot. This year, because of construction projects, the event will be held in the Central Elementary School parking lot.
“We are expecting our largest crowd ever,” Howell-Atkinson said. “We’re really excited about the vendor turnout.”
The event only started taking vendors who sold items about two years ago. Prior, nothing was sold.
“We got feedback that local entrepreneurs and those who had businesses but didn’t have a storefront, wanted a place to sell their wares,” she said. “So we’re happy to provide them a place to do that and give them an opportunity to get their name out there.”
The event will also include entertainment, food and a water slide for children.
Last year, Pres. Joe Biden signed a resolution establishing June 19 as Juneteenth National Independence Day, a U.S. holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.
The Juneteenth Celebration kicked off last Saturday with the Linen on the Lawn event at Old Armory Pavilion.
The Yoknapatawpha Arts Council has joined with the Oxford Juneteenth group to help organize many of the events.
For more information, or to apply to be a vendor at the event, visit https://www.oxfordjuneteenth.org.