ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – As part of an annual event, local leaders vendors, and community members join together to celebrate Freedom Day since 1865.

“It is an amazing experience. I think this is the first time I’ve seen this amount of people of color together celebrating a worthy cause, ” said Lorri Thornton, Pastor, Friendship Baptist Church.

Residents of various cultures were in attendance showing their support for Juneteenth.

“To see as many people participating was exciting, especially in the time that we live in with mass shootings and racial divides and injustice and inequality,” said Thornton.

A new community member noted that she’s honored to see the Juneteenth holiday celebrated the way it was today in the Southern Tier.

“I am new to the area myself. But relocating here from Texas, Juneteenth is widely celebrated in that state. So now see New York, representing Juneteenth and honoring it as it should be honored. I feel privileged to be a part of this,” said Candice White, Volunteer.

Local leaders spoke about the value of having a diverse audience for this year’s Juneteenth affair.

 “It means unity. We’re talking about unity in the community. We want a helpful and vibrant community. To have that, we have to come together. It’s like a puzzle. Everybody has a piece in the puzzle. If all of these different groups, all of these different people bring a piece to that puzzle,” Georgia Verdier, President, Elmira Corning Branch, NAACP

Thornton shared that the time has come to recognize that Juneteenth is just as significant and impactful as July 4th.