Community groups are joining forces Saturday for a full day of Juneteenth events, starting with a parade and continuing with a free lunch and an expo for small businesses and artists.
The Saturday celebrations come four days ahead of the actual Juneteenth holiday, which commemorates the freeing of Texas slaves on June 19, 1865.
Festivities will begin at 10 a.m. with the traditional parade down Elm Avenue sponsored by the Cen-Tex African American Chamber of Commerce, but with an altered route. The procession will begin at Quinn Campus, 1020 Elm Ave., and proceed down Elm to Douglas C. Brown Street, where it will turn left, then take another left at Taylor Street and left on Garrison Street to return to the campus.
The route is meant to avoid having to cross traffic on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, said Rachel Pate, the chamber’s vice president for economic development.
“It’s just a security concern about taking it across the river,” she said.
Pate said the chamber is partnering with other organizations this year to promote the parade along with two other Juneteenth events in East Waco. The Waco chapter of the NAACP and the Project VIER Coalition will host a free cookout immediately after the parade at Wilbert Austin Sr. Park, 401 Hood St. It will include a live DJ, talent show for young people, carnival, horseback rides, kickball, basketball, dominoes, and spades and bid whist card games.
From noon to 4 p.m., partners including Grassroots Community Development will sponsor a small business and artist showcase at the Multipurpose Center at Quinn Campus. The event will include shopping and live performances of poetry, spoken word and music. Visitors will see artists’ work and displays on African American history.
Pate said organizers of Juneteenth efforts decided to collaborate this year to “create an atmosphere of celebration” and educate the next generation about the history of the day.
“I think everyone wants to share the excitement and exuberance of Juneteenth,” she said.