Annual Juneteenth celebrations begin Thursday; organizers hope to bring Amarillo 'together'
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By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer
Four days of celebration, including a free concert by a Grammy-winning gospel singer, will attempt to find common ground across neighborhood dividing lines.
The 2017 Junefest festivities, which run Thursday through Sunday in various locations, also recognize the Juneteenth holiday, which commemorates the announcement in Texas of the end of slavery.
"We're having an extremely diverse celebration this year," Junefest chair Melodie Graves said. "We're bringing Amarillo together this year."
Comedian Kiana Dancie will perform at 8 p.m. Thursday at In This Moment, 707 S. Polk St., in a show that also will feature a meet-and-greet and a preview of GEO Fashion Designs runway show. Tickets are $25, and doors open at 7 p.m. Call 806-584-2581, 806-517-4618 or 806-672-1547.
The adults-only Kicking at the Backstage party features free food and drinks at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Bones Hooks Park, 2000 N. Hughes St. Admission is free and limited to those age 21 and older.
The Tee's Music Juneteenth Talent Show, featuring all kinds of acts performed by all ages, begins at 7 p.m. Friday in the Palo Duro High School auditorium, 1400 N. Grant St. Entry fee is $10; admission fee to watch the show is $7 for adults and $5 for students.
The annual Juneteenth parade will run from Ninth Avenue and Hayden Street to Bones Hooks Park. It begins at 10:30 a.m. Saturday.
The centerpiece of the festivities is the Hamlet/Heights One Community Reunion Picnic, named for the Hamlet and North Heights neighborhoods.
The picnic kicks off at noon Saturday with an opening ceremony, followed by a free lunch at 12:30 p.m. Children ages 6 to 12 can compete in a punt, pass, kick challenge at 12:45 p.m.
Kim J. Nickerson will give a keynote address at 1 p.m. Nickerson is an Amarillo native who's now dean for diversity, equity and inclusion for the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences at the University of Maryland — College Park.
Grammy Award-winning gospel star Le'Andria will give a free concert at 2 p.m. in the park. She was the winner of the third season of BET's reality competition show Sunday Best and won a Grammy in 2012 for best gospel/contemporary Christian music performance.
At 3 p.m., a hair show and GEO Fashion Designs runway show will begin, folowed by a reunion gala at 7:30 p.m. in the Amarillo Club on the 31st floor of Chase Tower, 600 S. Tyler St. Tickets are $25.
Festivities conclude Sunday with An Evening of Quintessential Elegance, a dance concert by the Dallas-based Terrance M. Johnson Dance Project at 5 p.m. Sunday in the Globe-News Center for the Performing Arts, 500 S. Buchanan St. Tickets are $10.
"We're hoping to show that it's not a 'your side, my side,' bu that we are Amarillo," Graves said. "I think our community right now is at unrest with so much violence. It does take a village, and we need to make our village strong."