The local Juneteenth celebration lives on.
The Junteenth-Columbus committee decided in a called meeting Thursday evening to move forward with plans for this year’s event — set for June 19-20 at Sim Scott Park — despite a Columbus City Council decision earlier this week to prohibit beer sales on park grounds.
Event chairperson Cindy Lawrence told The Dispatch the committee has struck a deal to sell beer on private property adjacent to the park. She said it has also committed to seeking an additional $750 in sponsorships for the event and looking for ways to cut costs.
Juneteenth, or Emancipation Day, commemorates an event in June 1865 when Union soldiers brought news to Galveston, Texas, that the Civil War had ended. The local celebration began in 1996, and Lawrence said the city council had allowed the committee to sell beer in the park several years in the past.
However, the council voted 5-1 on Tuesday to deny that request this year. After the vote, festival organizers threatened to cancel the event.
Lawrence said that historically, beer sales were much better when it was available on park grounds instead of on nearby private property. Mitchell Distributing, she said, provided the beer for sale along with an annual donation to the festival.
Juneteenth also receives $10,000 from the Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau, as well vendor booth fees. Lawrence said this year’s festival had already raked in more than $7,000 in private donations, too.
Between 15,000 and 16,000 festivalgoers attend Juneteenth each year, according to Lawrence.
Zack Plair is the managing editor for The Dispatch.