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Juneteenth Festival fills park


Shirley Marshall and grandson Jaise Futrell sipped cool shaved ice together as people swirled around them Saturday under the pavilion at the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park.

They were attendees at the sixth annual Juneteenth Festival presented by Mount Hebron Masonic Lodge No. 42. Thousands attended the event as it joined the Wilson Farmers & Artisan Market in the park for a full day of music, food and fellowship.



“This is my first time seeing something as great as this. It is spectacular,” Marshall said.

Rhyan Scott, 4, of Wilson, holds lemonade on her forehead to cool down at Saturday’s Juneteenth Festival in downtown Wilson.  Drew C. Wilson | Times

Rhyan Scott, 4, of Wilson, holds lemonade on her forehead to cool down at Saturday’s Juneteenth Festival in downtown Wilson. Drew C. Wilson | Times

Juneteenth, made a federal holiday in 2021, is the longest, nationwide celebration of the end of slavery in the United States.

“I don’t have words for it, really,” Marshall said. “We have come a long, long way, but yet I think we have more progress to go. We want to go farther, and events like this will bring us closer and closer together, I think.”

Synethia Nelson of Wilson said it is a celebration of freedom for African-Americans.

“Finally we have a holiday that recognizes our history and how far we’ve come and how far we still have got to go,” Nelson said. “Yes, I’m proud to be here, although it is still hot out here. We’ve got a lot of people, a lot of activities for the kids and for the adults.”

From 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., attendees visited the park. Portions of South and Douglas streets were closed for the festival, where many kinds of food could be purchased.

Sheryletta Lacewell worked with the lodge on the planning committee for the Juneteenth Festival this year.

Lacewell helped organize the festival’s Reggie Smith Basketball Shootout in memory of the Wilson Police Department’s Capt. Reggie Smith, who died Jan. 7.

“I just thought that would be a great way to honor him,” she said.

Lacewell said many kids in the Wilson community who are now adults were coached by Smith through his relationship with the Wilson Police Athletic League.

“I talked to Adrienne Smith, his wife, and she was on board from the first minute and was just so supportive and was just really pleased that we were wanting to do that,” Lacewell said.

Adrienne Smith was in attendance Saturday with three of her four children. The young children were lifted up into the air to shoot basketball shots by some of the captain’s fellow officers as the competition got underway.

Lacewell said winners of the basketball shootout were David Four, ages 10-11; Jhewell Williams, ages 12-14; Gavin King, ages 15-18; and Shemer Hudson, ages 19 and older.

“Today couldn’t have been more perfect,” said Saptosa Foster of the Sallie B. Howard School of the Arts & Science. “The weather has been beautiful. The people have really come out. I think it is really important to acknowledge the progress that we have made in our country when it comes to race relations, when it comes to acknowledging the sacrifices of African Americans. I love Juneteenth. I love what it represents. And I love that Wilson saw the importance of acknowledging this holiday.”

Last year’s festival was marked by rain showers, but skies were clear this year.

“It’s hot, but it rained last year, so we are very thankful. We will take this any day over the rain,” Lacewell said. “I just want to encourage everyone in the future to come out, celebrate with us and do everything we can to promote unity all the more. Individually, we can make a decision that we are going to promote unity.”

Juneteenth Festival coordinator Ray Hinnant of Mount Hebron Masonic Lodge said the event was “a huge success.”

Hinnant said there were 55 vendors.

“We had plenty of stage entertainment. We had a beautiful day,” Hinnant said. “I think we had a nice crowd of people and a diverse crowd of people. I think it went great.” 

Lacewell said she sees the Juneteenth celebration getting bigger and better in future years.

“I see it expanding to include all people, because that’s our desire. It’s a celebration of freedom, and in some capacity, we have all experienced freedom or the lack of,” Lacewell said. “It’s for all people, and we just want to get that word out there. We just want to get people thinking freedom. We can celebrate each other’s freedom. My freedom may not look like yours, yet I can celebrate with you and you can celebrate with me.”

Shirley Marshall of Wilson, left, and grandson Jaise Futrell, 7, share a tiger blood flavored icy drink at the Juneteenth event under the pavilion at the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park on Saturday.  Drew C. Wilson | Times

Shirley Marshall of Wilson, left, and grandson Jaise Futrell, 7, share a tiger blood flavored icy drink at the Juneteenth event under the pavilion at the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park on Saturday. Drew C. Wilson | Times

Wilson Police Sgt. Steve Gardner lifts up Gianna Smith, 3, to shoot a basket during the Reggie Smith Basketball Shootout at Saturday’s Juneteenth Festival. Gianna is one of four children of the late Capt. Reggie Smith.  Drew C. Wilson | Times

Wilson Police Sgt. Steve Gardner lifts up Gianna Smith, 3, to shoot a basket during the Reggie Smith Basketball Shootout at Saturday’s Juneteenth Festival. Gianna is one of four children of the late Capt. Reggie Smith. Drew C. Wilson | Times

Donnell Chisel of Wilson prepares turkey legs on the grill for attendees at Saturday's Juneteenth celebration.  Drew C. Wilson | Times

Donnell Chisel of Wilson prepares turkey legs on the grill for attendees at Saturday’s Juneteenth celebration. Drew C. Wilson | Times

Painters fill in a mural organized by Wilson Arts during Saturday’s Juneteenth celebration at the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park.  Drew C. Wilson | Times

Painters fill in a mural organized by Wilson Arts during Saturday’s Juneteenth celebration at the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park. Drew C. Wilson | Times

Brelle Lynch, 13, of Wilson, splashes into a cool puddle on a water slide during Saturday’s Juneteenth Festival at the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park.  Drew C. Wilson | Times

Brelle Lynch, 13, of Wilson, splashes into a cool puddle on a water slide during Saturday’s Juneteenth Festival at the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park. Drew C. Wilson | Times

Families found the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park lawn a perfect place for young and old to play ball at Saturday’s Juneteenth Festival.  Drew C. Wilson | Times

Families found the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park lawn a perfect place for young and old to play ball at Saturday’s Juneteenth Festival. Drew C. Wilson | Times

M.B. Leano sings in front of a crowd at the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park during Saturday’s Juneteenth celebration.  Drew C. Wilson | Times

M.B. Leano sings in front of a crowd at the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park during Saturday’s Juneteenth celebration. Drew C. Wilson | Times

Sallie B. Howard School of Arts and Science founder JoAnne Woodard, left, speaks with Democratic congressional candidate Don Davis, right, at Saturday’s Juneteenth celebration. Drew C. Wilson | Times

Sallie B. Howard School of Arts and Science founder JoAnne Woodard, left, speaks with Democratic congressional candidate Don Davis, right, at Saturday’s Juneteenth celebration. Drew C. Wilson | Times

Wilson County Commissioner JoAnne Daniels fans herself in the heat Saturday during the Juneteenth celebration at the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park.  Drew C. Wilson | Times

Wilson County Commissioner JoAnne Daniels fans herself in the heat Saturday during the Juneteenth celebration at the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park. Drew C. Wilson | Times

Tenor saxophone player Mike Brown of the group Jus Music performs for Saturday’s Juneteenth celebration at the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park.  Drew C. Wilson | Times

Tenor saxophone player Mike Brown of the group Jus Music performs for Saturday’s Juneteenth celebration at the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park. Drew C. Wilson | Times

The band Envision performs for Saturday’s Juneteeth celebration at the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park.  Drew C. Wilson | Times

The band Envision performs for Saturday’s Juneteeth celebration at the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park. Drew C. Wilson | Times

Rapper “Fleetwood” of Wilson performs on the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park stage at Saturday’s Juneteenth celebration.  Drew C. Wilson | Times

Rapper “Fleetwood” of Wilson performs on the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park stage at Saturday’s Juneteenth celebration. Drew C. Wilson | Times