When John Staten was growing up in east Pasco, the annual Juneteenth celebration in Kurtzman Park was a special time.
“Everybody who’d moved away would come back to the park,” he said. “On the east side, we all grew up like family. Very close.”
Staten is helping organize this year’s Juneteenth festivities, which include a talent show, parade and hours of music and fun.
And he’s expecting more of those special times.
To him, Juneteenth represents “a feeling of kinship, a feeling of extended family. Extended family coming home,” he said.
The talent show is at 6 p.m. today at the Martin Luther King Center at 205 S. Wehe Ave.
The Juneteenth Celebration and Homecoming Music Festival follows on June 18 at Kurtzman Park, kicking off with parade at 9 a.m. and continuing with music, food and activities until about 3 p.m. That night, The Roxy Bar in Kennewick — co-owned by Staten — is having a ’70s party.
The festivities continue with the 2016 Miss Juneteenth Scholarship Pageant at 6 p.m. June 25 at Chiawana High School in Pasco.
Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S. It dates to June 19, 1865, when news of the end of the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation reached Galveston, Texas.
The celebration in Pasco has been happening annually for decades. It’s free and family friendly, with a musical lineup filled with gospel, blues, jazz, funk and hip hop.
After the parade, the Mid-Columbia Mastersingers and a gospel choir are set to perform. The Dara Quinn Project also will take the stage.
The talent show and festival are dedicated to Delores Groce, a longtime organizer who passed away.
Sponsors include West Coast Auto Dealers, Summit Funding and the Fox Vance Family Foundation.
Staten said Juneteenth is an important time, an important moment to celebrate — not only because it brings people home, brings families together, but also because of what it represents.
“What I always want to stress about Juneteenth and the emancipation — to me, it’s our greatest accomplishment of human rights in America,” he said.
For more information, go to tinyurl.com/pascofestival.