Haines City celebrated June 1 with parade and soul concert
by James Coulter
Haines City celebrated its first Juneteenth with a two-day celebration last weekend, which included a gala, parade and soul concert. The event officially kicked off Friday night with a Black Tie Gala at the Lake Eva Event Center, which included dinner, live music, and a special speaker.
The party continued the next day. Saturday’s festivities began with a parade with several dozen floats, vehicles and performers. The parade started at Trinity Worship Center and continued along MLK Way and ended at Myers & Wiley Field.
Representatives from the Haines City Commission, including Mayor Morris West, as well as the City of Haines Fire and Police Department and even the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, participated in the parade.
The other festivities continued on the sports field with the Juneteenth Soul Concert, which featured vendors, food trucks and live musical performances from “Solivita”, CeCe Teneal & the Soul Komotion Band and Omar Cunningham.
Juneteenth commemorates the liberation of black slaves following the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln. This year’s celebration was particularly significant, as the occasion was officially recognized as a national holiday by President Joe Biden.
“Empowerment is a landmark event in our nation’s history as we continue to strive for equality for all. I am very proud that our city has been at the forefront, marking Juneteenth as a public holiday even before President Biden made it a federal holiday, ”said Mayor Morris West. “This celebration means a lot to our diverse community. It’s exciting to see a new tradition come to life in our great city.
The whole celebration drew a good turnout with the Friday and Saturday festivities. The Soul Concert on Saturday afternoon especially drew a large crowd. An estimated 300 to 400 people attended the concert that night, said Terrell Griffin, director of parks and recreation.
“For an event of this magnitude for the first time, I was pleased with the participation in the Friday night and Saturday events,” he said. “I was delighted to see the result of the community’s collaboration to collaborate on such an important event in American history.”
Griffin enjoyed seeing the community come together to celebrate the occasion, especially with the one-year pandemic hopefully ending. In addition, residents of various origins. came together in fellowship to live up to the city’s motto “Haines City Forward – One City One Vision”.
This year’s Juneteenth celebration was made possible by the hard work and efforts of the following local organizations and individuals: City of Haines City Event Center Coordinator, Lekia Johnson, Northeast Revitalization Group, Northeast Rattlers, and Unity in the Community and the NAACP (Haines City Branch).
With this year’s event being the inaugural celebration, expectations were more than exceeded. Hopes remain high for next year’s celebrations, especially now that Juneteenth has been officially recognized as a federal holiday.
“The event exceeded my expectations and I look forward to future events,” Griffin said. “The bar has been set high, but with the continued collaboration of the community, I think future events will be bigger and better than this year’s event.”