HANNIBAL, Mo. — A few light sprinkles Saturday didn’t stop the crowd from turning out to Hannibal’s Central Park for the 24th Juneteenth Celebration.
This year, participants had an even bigger reason to celebrate. Though Missouri has recognized the holiday since 2003, it was just this past week that the U.S. Congress passed a law making the day a federal holiday. President Joe Biden signed the law on Thursday, marking the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was created in 1983.
John Osborne said this was around his 15th year celebrating the day in Hannibal. He said he doesn’t recall any problems the event has had in Hannibal, and this year is the same. Osborne was also celebrating the passing federal bill.
“I’m glad they finally paid attention to us and made it a national holiday,” he said.
Juneteenth marks the day when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas, to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. Though that proclamation was signed into law more than two years earlier, it took the arrival of troops to bring the word and enforce the law the largest of the hold-out slave states.
Festivities on Saturday included a free cookout, a commemorative march, on foot and in vehicles, down Broadway in Hannibal, performances by the Beats Academy, music all afternoon, and a bounce house for kids. Organizers were also offering bingo games with prizes and something special for the fathers in attendance to also celebrate Father’s Day weekend.
The entire event was coordinated by the work of just four committee members: Marsha Mayfield, her daughter Talya Mayfield, Keith Maiden, and Faye Dant.
“You see what we can do with four people,” Maiden said, inviting crowds members to step up and assist for future events. “Imagine what we could do with ten!”
Following the march, the afternoon officially kicked off with a prayer from the Rev. M. Faye Vaughn and welcoming comments from Talya Mayfield.
Dant said the federal holiday law is a win for the movement and recognition, but that it’s only the start.
“It’s for America,” Dant said. “It’s become an American holiday and America is officially recognizing it. While there’s still much, much work to be done, we’re going to take this and appreciate it today.”