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35th annual Utah Juneteenth Festival coming to Ogden this weekend

By Ryan Aston - | Jun 12, 2024

Brian Wolfer, Special to the Standard-Examiner

The Utah Juneteenth celebration takes place at the Ogden Amphitheater on Saturday, June 18, 2022.

OGDEN -- This weekend, the Beehive State's longest-running Juneteenth celebration will return to downtown Ogden.

The Project Success Coalition is hosting the 35th annual Utah Juneteenth Freedom & Heritage Festival at the Ogden Amphitheater. The event will run Friday (4-9 p.m.), Saturday (noon to 9 p.m.) and Sunday (noon to 9 p.m.) and will include a performance by "Bed" singer J. Holiday.

Officially called the Juneteenth National Independence Day, the annual commemoration -- which marks the day that Union Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger ordered the final enforcement of the end of slavery in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation -- was recognized as a federal holiday in 2021, celebrated June 19.

It became a state holiday the following year, and Betty Sawyer -- Project Success' executive director -- says the state's recognition brought a new level of support to the Juneteenth festival.

"Businesses, as well as government agencies, have been stepping up to the plate to not just observe it as a holiday themselves but to offer activities to celebrate and heighten that awareness among their employees and the community in general," Sawyer told the Standard-Examiner.

This year's celebration will once again feature the Willie Moore and Billy Mason "Golden Clipper" barber battle and the "Crowns" braid competition. There also will be a Father's Day car show, natural hair education sessions, activities for kids -- including the Kuumba (Creativity) Village -- plus additional entertainment, activities and food options.

According to Sawyer, preparations for the festival began in September and will continue through the event's opening. She added that community members played a key role in securing many of the festival's special attractions.

However, the three-day event is about much more than just having a good time.

"Along with us just honoring our ancestors and doing fun events to highlight our culture, those kinds of things, we always work to make sure we're adding educational components to whatever we do," Sawyer said. "We can have fun together, but let's address issues together so that we all can get our marching orders for how we work together to bring about the changes that need to take place in our community and in our state."

Sawyer characterized this year's Juneteenth celebration as "extremely important," given the current political climate.

"I think it's important that we come together as a community to let folks know that despite what we see on the negative side -- the pushback against gains made not just by the African-American community, but most marginalized communities in general -- it's important that we don't go along with it," Sawyer said. "By coming together, hopefully, folks will get the message that just because someone says legislatively that diversity is evil or this is not good ... we have to let them know, 'No, that's not true.'"

For more information, go to https://projectsuccessinc.org or https://juneteenthutah.org.

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