Wilson celebrates Juneteenth | Wide Awake
Wide Awake

Wilson celebrates Juneteenth

Events planned June 19 and 25 with vendors, music and food

Posted on May 26, 2022

The band Envision will play at the Juneteenth Festival on June 25 at the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park.

Contributed photo

The band Envision will play at the Juneteenth Festival on June 25 at the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park.

Big changes are in store for this year’s Juneteenth Festival by Mount Hebron Masonic Lodge No. 42. The June 25 event has been relocated from East Nash Street to the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park, 301 Goldsboro St., and will begin earlier in the day, starting at 9 a.m. to coincide with the opening of the Wilson Farmers and Artisan Market, which will open an hour later than usual.

“While looking for festival sponsors, we began talking about using the Whirligig Park as the venue to make it a more inclusive festival,” said Ray Hinnant, Juneteenth Festival coordinator for Mount Hebron. 

“This is an opportunity to have a crowd that we usually don’t have at the festival and the market to have a crowd that they usually don’t have. The Farmers Market will open an hour later so as to begin at the same time as the festival.”

The festival continues until 6 p.m., he said

Hinnant said festival organizers hope to have even more vendors than last year when there around 59. Vendors included those selling food and drink, arts and crafts, jewelry and clothing, among many others. Non-profit organizations are encouraged to attend again this year. 

“Mount Hebron is famous for cooking smoked turkey legs, and we will be there again this year at the festival,” Hinnant said. “We will also have a booth selling Juneteenth T-shirts.”

Headlining the music offered at the festival this year is Envision, taking the Whirligig Park stage from 3 to 6 p.m. EnVision hails from Winston-Salem and is known throughout the Southeast as a party band covering hits from the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s as well as today’s Top 40 hits. The band’s musical style runs the gamut from R&B to beach music, pop, dance, funk and jazz.

Hinnant said the significance of Juneteenth, a federal holiday celebrating the June 19, 1865, announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas, and moreover, the emancipation of African American slaves throughout the Confederate South, is the reason Mount Hebron organizes the festival, but the festival is about more than celebrating one day.

“We do want people to be educated about Juneteenth, but the festival itself is about people coming together and having a good time,” Hinnant said. “We want visitors to listen to good music, visit vendors and go away talking about what a good time they had and looking forward to next year’s festival. We want this to be bigger and better every year.”

Mount Hebron has organized the Juneteenth Festival for six years, but the 2019 festival was rained out, and the 2020 festival did not take place because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are grateful for our sponsors as we reach out into the community,” Hinnant said. “We are hoping that even more organizations and businesses will know that we are a legitimate festival and will want to become involved.”

The festival committee has a new website offering more information about the festival and a page dedicated to vendor registration. Hinnant said that the cut-off date for registration is May 27, but the committee will most likely accept vendors who apply in the days following. The website is www.wilsonjuneteenthfestival.com.

June 19 event

Wilson business owner Khalilah Hamlett is involved in the organization of the festival, but she also wanted to host an event on the actual holiday, June 19. The result is a Juneteenth Family Cookout & Grill Master Competition to be held beside her retail store, 252 HQ, at 222 Tarboro St., from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, June 19.

“This is something I wanted to do because I didn’t hear of anything being done in Wilson on the actual date of Juneteenth,” Hamlett said. “This is not a big festival with speakers or anything like that. It will be like a grill master competition, with grillers here cooking and selling their food.”

Hamlett will hand out prizes to the top grill masters voted on by eight local judges. Grilling will take place in the Truist parking lot beside her store where there will also be a bounce house, a variety of vendors and a DJ. 

“I plan on doing this every year, and I hope that everyone comes and enjoys fellowship and togetherness,” Hamlett said.

Historic Downtown Wilson is assisting Hamlett with the promoting event.

Hamlett encourages “self-proclaimed grill masters” and interested vendors to contact her at 252-289-8512 or 252BWS@gmail.com.

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