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Oxford’s annual Juneteenth celebration expanding

While the nation experiences some of its most divisive times in recent history, Oxford is out to show its community is united as one. The city’s annual Juneteenth celebration will take place next weekend and, for the first time, is a two-day event.

Beginning on June 14 and carrying over to June 15, Juneteenth will incorporate a Friday night event titled ‘Linen on the Lawn’ to help kick off the weekend’s festivities. It was an idea that Juneteenth organizers Kesha Howell-Atkinson and Frances Howell along with Yoknapatawpha Arts Council executive director Wayne Andrews came up with when the Howells reached out to help accommodate the growing celebration.

“It’s gotten bigger and bigger and now it’s really big, but we want more of Oxford to come,” Howell-Atkinson said. “We (asked YAC) to help make it as big as it should be and also help pull people in. It’s not just for the Martin Luther King (community) and it has nothing to do with slavery. It has to do with our community and it’s a celebration and a big back yard party.”

‘Linen on the Lawn’ event is a free community picnic that will occur at the Old Armory Pavilion at 6 p.m. The event will feature live music and is sponsored in part by the Mississippi Presenters Network and YAC. People can set up a table or spread a blanket and bring a picnic basket. Attendees can reserve a table and chair or purchase a picnic package by City Grocery Catering.

Friday’s event is the appetizer to Saturday’s annual event. This year’s Juneteenth celebration will be held at Oxford Intermediate School. The idea for a Juneteenth celebration started 12 years ago when community members of the Martin Luther King Jr. Drive neighborhood wanted to have a block party but did not know how to get people to come out. Families began donating $20 and a package of hot dogs to host a community event open to everyone. The celebration has grown so much that 12 years later 2,500 residents attend the event.

“Who doesn’t want a free hot dog and some good music?” Howell-Atkinson said. “Everybody’s having a good time and people are going from tent to tent. We wanted to have a kickoff event that leads up to Saturday. Where Friday night you have such a good time mingling and talking to people that, ‘hey, we invite you to the festival. If you think this was good time wait until Saturday.’ Hopefully they fall in love Friday night and Saturday night they want to come back for more.”

Fore more information or to purchase picnic packages for Friday night’s event, visit oxfordjuneteenth.org