Past vividly celebrated

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Matt Garnett/For the DRC
Recutz Barbershop fielded an entry in Denton’s Juneteenth parade around downtown on Saturday morning.
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Vellena Cross hopped in her car so she could catch Denton’s Juneteenth parade twice.

And she wasn’t the only spectator who watched Saturday’s procession on the downtown Square, then went to catch the parade’s finish at Fred Moore Park.

Cross, a Denton resident, had a child in the parade and was with her young niece and nephew to watch nearly 20 vehicles and horse riders parade through downtown for Denton’s 44th annual Juneteenth celebration.

Cross, who also attended Friday’s festivities, summed up the weekend as “very eventful.”

“I just love the way Denton County celebrates as a community,” she said. “I just think it’s wonderful.”

Horns blared from cars and trucks decked with streamers, posters and other decorations, announcing the arrival of the parade through Denton streets.

Parade participants from local churches, youth groups, political organizations, civic groups and a fraternity waved and threw out candy to spectators.

Children on the Square and at Wilson and Lakey streets ran out to collect the treats from the roadways. Some had brought bags to carry away large quantities of candy; others folded candy into their T-shirts.

The parade traveled from the Denton Civic Center through the downtown Square and on to Fred Moore Park, where vendors were set up, food was available and children played.

“Our theme is unity in the community, and that is bringing everyone together to remember the past,” said Beatrice Clay, parade chairwoman.

Frederick Bishop of Denton said he’s been attending the city’s Juneteenth celebration since he was 11. He said while festivities are not as large as he remembers as a child, the people he saw participating then have kept up the celebration. On Saturday, Bishop assisted with the parade and other events.

Serving as the parade grand marshal was Collette Johnson, president of the Southeast Denton Neighborhood Association. She said that in the past she participated in Juneteenth festivities at Fred Moore Park, but Saturday was her first time joining the parade. Johnson said the event is important not only to her but to the neighborhood.

“I’m just excited to be a part of it,” she said. “It just means a lot that we’re able to celebrate this year after year after year.”

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when word reached about 250,000 slaves in Texas that the Civil War had ended and that they were free, according to the Texas State Historical Association website. The message was delivered by Union Gen. Gordon Granger in Galveston, more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

Since the announcement in 1865, the day has been marked with celebrations across Texas. According to the Texas State Historical Association, legislation calling for Juneteenth to be recognized as a state holiday was signed into law in 1979, and the following year, Texas hosted its first state-sponsored celebration.

Juneteenth festivities in Denton began Friday and continued Saturday. In addition to the parade, activities included a softball tournament, gospel concert and a reception honoring community heroes.

BRITNEY TABOR can be reached at 940-566-6876 and via Twitter at @BritneyTabor.

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