Eloise Barrett and Amanda Melendez serve cotton candy at a past Juneteenth celebration at Southside Community Center.

ITHACA — Juneteenth celebrates the events of June 19, 1865 — the day when Major General Gordon Granger and Union forces arrived in Galveston, Texas. Although the Emancipation Proclamation had been signed two years earlier, slaves were still at work; their freedom represented the last slaves to be released.

Ithaca’s 13th annual celebration will take place at from 1-6 p.m. Saturday, June 15, at the Southside Community Center.

“There’s a lot going on,” said Southside’s Program Manager Nagiane Lacka. “We decided to go back and make it even bigger.

“Since we already have an art space, we decided to make it themed for Juneteenth,” she added, “since we already have the market, it’s themed for Juneteenth.”

The market — the Congo Square Market, which takes place every Friday during the summer — will kick off the celebration on Friday. This Friday, the market will have special foods and activities for Juneteenth.

Following the market will be a comedy show with local and out-of-town artists, including Courtney McGuire, Francisco Arce, Chris Miree and Jim Search. The show is for people 18 and older.

“It will be a chance to reflect in a comedic way,” Lacka said.

The Juneteenth Festival itself will be held on Saturday, and promises to be a big day. During the opening ceremony, an actor protraying Abraham Lincoln will read the Emancipation Proclamation; that will be followed by an actor filling the role of Major Gordon, who will ride in on a horse to deliver the order of freedom.

“We haven’t done that before,” Lacka said.

The festival also will offer a craft station for younger children, themed for Juneteenth, and the Family Reading Partnership will provide a book themed for the holiday as well.

After the festival, the Girl Empowerment Group is holding an All-White party for teens. There will be a live performance by Jupiter Kid Nova and DJ Split Image. Cotton candy and soft drink beverages will be provided.

The SSCC art space will be dedicated to a local artist, Terry Plater, whose paintings include everything from portraits to landscapes.

This year’s theme is ‘Believe It, Achieve It.’

“The Center’s mission is to promote and support achievement in the local African American community,” Lacka said. “We are living achievement.”

Volunteers are still need to fill a number of different roles, from popcorn making to the craft station, but are especially needed for cleanup. For more information, contact the Southside Community Center at (607) 273-4190.

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