Juneteenth Festival promotes heritage, community

LAKE COUNTY — Entertainment, a petting zoo, arts and crafts and other activities were all part of Idlewild’s first Juneteenth Festival held Saturday.

Celebrated throughout the country, Juneteenth festivals commemorate the end of slavery. After the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, Union soldiers traveled through the south to let slaves know they were free. Because the travel took several days to complete, not everyone heard the news on the same day, so the festivals became known as Juneteenth.

This is the first year Idlewild has held a Juneteenth festival.

Macala Evans, Idlewild Juneteenth Festival president, said the festival is a way to give back to the community and also educate about the time in history when slaves were freed in the United States.

“We wanted to promote heritage in a fun way because that’s what Juneteenth is about,” Evans said. “It’s about bringing the community together to celebrate freedom, life and happiness.”

The family-friendly festival featured entertainment from local singers and dancers, a bounce house and relay games for young children.

Gerald Pittman said the event served many purposes and he would like to see it continue.

“It’s good to learn about history and also bring people together,” he said. “It’s good for Idlewild and Baldwin to maybe bring others to the area and give an economic boost.”

Evans, along with her co-organizers, ChaDorea Robinson, Erica Tate and Doresa Walston-Mack, plan to continue the festival.

Evans said the event had a very nice turnout in its first year and she will strive to build upon it.

“We want to keep doing this each year for the families and to make this an event that grows and brings people to the area,” she said.