Juneteenth celebration returns to Lima

LIMA — A celebration of freedom drew families to the Greater Lima Region Amphitheater Park Saturday.

Visitors crowded into the park in commemoration of Juneteenth, referring to June 19, 1865, when Union troops freed the last remaining enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas, two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation to abolish slavery in the former Confederate states.

“The slaves at Galveston, Texas, didn’t realize they were free until that day,” said Marc Wright, a committee chair who helped organize the event, adding: “We weren’t all free until June 19, 1865.”

This is the fourth year for Lima’s Juneteenth celebration and its first at the amphitheater park. Local artisans and bakers sold home-made soaps, woven baskets and gourmet popcorn to passersby in the pop-up shop.

Non-profit agencies like West Ohio Community Action Partnership and the South Lima Community Development Corporation sent representatives to the festival’s Opportunity Zone to discuss their work in the community, while Lima Memorial Health System offered free health checks.

Food trucks like Bean City Chicken and Fannie’s Fixings parked out back, selling chicken, turkey legs and soul food next to the bounce houses where children played.

On stage, singer Catherine Munday welcomed visitors with a rendition of the National Anthem and Lift Every Voice and Sing, fondly known as the Black National Anthem.

“Our mission is to help build a better life with inclusive economic development, affordable housing and safe neighborhoods for everyone,” said Sheri Gary, vice president of South Lima, one of 17 non-profit agencies represented at Juneteenth this year.

The non-profit group formed two years ago as Lima’s revitalization progressed. Early projects focused on painting Mama Dot’s Kitchen, volunteering for Mayor Sharetta Smith’s cleanup days and organizing back-to-school block parties to give away school uniforms and supplies.

Gary said South Lima is planning another back-to-school block party Aug. 10 at Philippian Missionary Baptist Church.

Celina artisan Sabrina Foster saw an opportunity to meet new customers at the pop-up shop, where she sold her home-made soaps, lotions, beard oils and perfumes. Foster founded the Soapery on Buckeye six months ago from what started as a hobby to decompress after work.

“I became obsessed and I have a lot of soap now,” she said.

Pop-up organizer Megan Horton is herself a business owner, selling eyelash extension strips through Mega-Lash.

“I started selling and organizing pop-up shops,” Horton said, “so when they asked me to come on board it was easy for me, because I already had the clientele for it.”