Elmira celebrates Juneteenth with annual event

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ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM/CNBC) — On Jun. 19, Elmira celebrated its annual Juneteenth Celebration Day at Ernie Davis Park from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.

President Joe Biden on Thursday signed a bill establishing Juneteenth, the date commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, as a federal holiday.

Anita Lewis, Chief Development Officer for the Economic Opportunity Program in Elmira and Juneteenth Committee Member, always looks forward to this day each year.

“This event really is about unity, community, cultural diversity and a celebration in freedom,” said Lewis. “There are artists here, food, and vendors selling all different types of things. So [there are] differences culturally because we’re all made up of something different.”

Lewis gave us a brief history lesson and shared how special it is for June 19th to be recognized as a holiday.

“Juneteenth started in 1865 and it was [about] slaves being free after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed,” said Lewis. “They did not know they were free for two years. So, what that means to me is that it’s freedom. It’s [a] celebration and it’s an opportunity now to do so many more things once those slaves knew they were free. It just makes it so much better that it’s a national holiday. I’m gonna keep saying it because it’s such a great thing to happen.”

Herb Smith Jr., owner of Strategic Custom Designs, was a vendor at the event and shared why Juneteenth is important to him.

“We have the opportunity to go as far as we want,” said Smith Jr. “Our ancestors put in the time, the work and they gave their lives in order for us to have the chances and opportunities that we have today. So, this right here serves as a reminder of how far we’ve come and the groundwork that has been set before us and for us to continue carrying on the torch.”

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