Juneteenth Freedom Festival: Family fun, fireworks, food and more in lineup for area’s 4-day celebration

Published 2:22 am Thursday, June 13, 2024

Four days of Juneteenth celebrations are coming to Southwest Louisiana.

Starting this Friday, the SWLA Center for Health Services will present the Juneteenth Freedom Festival, a stacked lineup of free Juneteenth celebrations.

Each year on June 19, Juneteenth is celebrated to commemorate the official end of slavery in the United States. On June 19, 1865 — two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed — federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1865 to take control of the state and make sure that all enslaved people were emancipated.

Email newsletter signup

Juneteenth Coordinator Jasmine Abel, administrative communication specialist, SWLA Center for Health Services, said that celebrating Juneteenth is an important time to “engage and honor African American cultural heritage.”

Over the past six years, the Juneteenth Freedom Festival has evolved from “a small festival hosted in North Lake Charles to a three-day festival held in various locations across SWLA,” she said.

The festival has expanded to include a family fun day and senior bingo, and attendance has continued to rise. Last year, there were over 3,000 festivalgoers.

The Juneteenth festivities will kick off with the 6th Annual Movie Under the Stars from 4-9 p.m. on Friday, June 14 at the Lake Charles Event Center Amphitheatre. This year, they will play “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” — a 2008 animated film that follows four zoo animals attempting to get to New York City, but end up in an African nature reserve
in Kenya.

The festivities will continue into Saturday, June 15.

The 2nd Annual Juneteenth Freedom Festival BBQ Cook-Off will begin at 8 a.m. at the Lake Charles Event Center Coliseum.

The Juneteenth Parade will roll-out at 10 a.m. The parade will begin at the Lake Charles Event Center, travel down Broad St., down Enterprise Blvd., to Mill St. and loop back to the Event Center.

The festival will officially begin at noon following the parade. Abel said that feature poetry, local award-winning musicians, vendor shopping and the presentation of the Juneteenth Queens.

Lafayette-based musical group Nebu Nezey and the Band will take the stage at 7 p.m.

The invite-only scholarship award presentation will be hosted  from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday in the Jean Lafitte Room at the Lake Chares Event Center.

Each year, money raised by the festival is used to fund six one-time $1,000 scholarships for students pursuing a four-year degree and a healthcare career, Abel said.

The scholarship recipients will be honored at the presentation, and 14th Judicial District Court Judge Kendrick Guidry will speak.

The 3rd Annual Juneteenth Worship Service will be held from 10 a.m. to noon. on Sunday, June 16 at Mount Olive Baptist Church, 3007 Enterprise Blvd.

The final day of the Juneteenth celebrations will be on Wednesday, June 19.

The inaugural Senior Bingo will be held from 9:30 – 11:30 a.m. at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center, 2009 North Simmons St.

Family Day is from 1 – 7 p.m. at the KPC Hall, 2526 Opelousas St. There will be a sauce piquant cookoff, food trucks, boutique vendors, a kid zone and live music and poetry.

Rusty Metoyer and the Zydeco Krush will headline Family Day, and take the stage at 6 p.m.

To close out Juneteenth, fireworks will light up the sky over the lake at dusk. The fireworks display can be viewed from the Lake Charles Event Center.