Celebrating Freedom Day: Food, fun and live entertainment highlights Juneteenth celebration in Lanett

Published 8:30 am Tuesday, June 20, 2023

LANETT — Juneteenth 2023 was celebrated locally with two weekend events. On June 10th there was a well attended Gospel Fest on the ballfields at the L.B. Sykes Community Center. This past Saturday was a time to celebrate what many African Americans have long called Freedom Day. This portion of the local celebration was a festival in downtown Lanett. It began during the ten o’clock hour on a stage that was set up on North Lanier Avenue. The downtown area from city hall to the downtown fountain was closed to traffic. Vendors selling everything from great food to Juneteenth collectibles, handmade jewelry and the like were on each side of the road, and some really good live entertainment had people looking for cool places to sit down and spend the day.

Mayor Jamie Heard, Mayor Steve Tramell and Council Member Henry Cooper extended greetings on behalf of the cities of Lanett, West Point and Valley. Anyone who likes history enjoyed the way a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation was brought to the stage to be read aloud of emcee Cameron Reed. Brothers Corey and Ron Ross delivered it on horseback. They rode in on two beautiful horses named Goldie and Mystery and approached the stage from the north, carrying both a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation and the official red, white and blue Juneteenth flag.

The Emancipation Proclamation was written by President Abraham Lincoln five days after the consequential Civil War Battle of Antietam and issued to the public on January 1, 1863. It said that all slaves in states that had seceded from the Union had been set free. Over the remaining course of the war, it would be enforced by the Union army in parts of the South under its control. It would become a growing factor in the South’s defeat in the Civil War. The adoption of the 13th Amendment in 1865 abolished slavery throughout the U.S.

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“Thank you, Corey, for bringing us this proclamation,” said Mayor Heard. “We have come a mighty long way under the grace of God and with generations of hard work and sacrifice by our ancestors. Today, as we commemorate 161 years of freedom, we pause to honor those brave souls we have lost down through the centuries in the struggle for freedom. We offer gratitude to our brothers and sisters who stood with us on the freedom journey. Today, we celebrate our many successes and achievements.

“As we push onward, I urge everyone in the Greater Valley Area to join us in making our communities places where everyone is welcome and are proud to call home.”

Saturday’s activities included face painting, children’s games, storytelling, a watermelon eating contest and a Battle of the Hot Wings eating contest with officials from the three local cities.

Winners of the scavenger hunt are fifth grade students Katelyn Simmons of Fairfax Elementary School and Suni Huguley of West Point Elementary and sixth grade student Zaysia Heard of W.O. Lance Elementary. Katelyn and Suni tied for first by correctly answering twelve-and-a-half out of 13 questions; Zaysia got 12 of them right.

Program emcee Cameron Reed is a graduate of Lanett High. He is the equipment manager for the NFL’s Chicago Bears and the founder of the Reed Family Foundation. The face paining was done by Laurel Alford of Newnan, Georgia. Her designs matched children’s imaginations as she created images of princesses, tigers, super heroes, flowers and more. King Jumpers of Valley brought their giant slide, and Lanett firefighters were on hand to hose down the kids with a cool mist.

The live music offered a wide variety of genres ranging from hip hop, electric Latin, gospel, rap and classic rhythm and blues. Ty Madden was the deejay for the day and performers included the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper drummers, the Delta Tau chapter of the Kappa Alpha Psi Steppers from Miles College, Adry Sandoval, Curvy Girls Are Dancing, Too, Chosen Generations, FGO, Big Man Griffin, the Infinity Dream Dancers, Poet Ravencroft, JFVON, Mello Ooowee and other CC Music artists.

When darkness fell on a most eventful day, a fireworks show provided by Boom City USA took place over the Lanett Mill site.

The City of Lanett hosted this year’s celebration in cooperation with the Greater Valley Area Juneteenth Committee.

The committee wishes to express its gratitude to this year’s sponsors. They include the City of Lanett, Kenny Knox Tire, Chattahoochee Federal Credit Union, Pilgrim Baptist Church, St. John Community Baptist Church, the Greater Valley Area Chamber of Commerce, Trammell Properties, Tabernacle of Praise, Alabama A&M University alumni, Goodsell United Methodist Church, the West Point Development Authority, Capital City Bank, City of West Point, Mount Hermon Baptist Church, Boom City USA and the Dobbs Corporation.