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Published: Sunday, 6/17/2007

Attendance at heritage event grows

BY MAGGIE REID
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Unique Washington, 4, left, and her sister, Asia Means, both of Toledo, make mud cloth at a craft station at the museum. Unique Washington, 4, left, and her sister, Asia Means, both of Toledo, make mud cloth at a craft station at the museum.
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It may have taken 2 1/2 years for news of the Emancipation Proclamation to reach the slaves in Texas.

But it did not take any time at all for the Juneteenth celebration to become an important and beloved tradition in Toledo.

The Toledo Museum of Art and its Committee for Cultural Diversity hosted the third annual Juneteenth Celebration yesterday.

It's a national day of remembrance for black experiences, traditions, and cultural contributions.

Members of the 5th United States Colored Troops Company C, Lee Randles, left, Rod Roberts, Jim Proctor, and Mike Esslinger, are encamped across from the Toledo Museum of Art. Members of the 5th United States Colored Troops Company C, Lee Randles, left, Rod Roberts, Jim Proctor, and Mike Esslinger, are encamped across from the Toledo Museum of Art.
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The celebration, coined Juneteenth, began on June 19, 1865, when slaves in Galveston, Texas, finally learned they were free at last. President Abraham Lincoln's proclamation to disband slavery was issued on Jan. 1, 1863.

The museum encouraged the community to celebrate with a free, all-day festival honoring black history.

Various activities were held in the museum and on its lawns, including live entertainment, educational films, and art exhibitions.

Family stations offered craft activities, where children could learn to braid, make a drum, or create an animal mask.

Delores Penn, left, Patricia Hogue, and Karen Sanders, all of Toledo, study the eyes of Elizabeth Catlett's sculpture 'Glory' on exhibit at the Toledo Museum of Art. Delores Penn, left, Patricia Hogue, and Karen Sanders, all of Toledo, study the eyes of Elizabeth Catlett's sculpture 'Glory' on exhibit at the Toledo Museum of Art.
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Vendors sold barbecue and other treats outdoors throughout the afternoon.

Museum director Don Bacigalupi said he is proud of the way the Juneteenth celebration has taken hold in Toledo the past three years.

The festival recently received the Impact Newsmaker Award from the Northwest Ohio Black Media Association, he said.

"It is clear that the Juneteenth festival is quickly becoming the big celebration in Toledo," Mr. Bacigalupi said.

He said that the number of volunteers and spectators keeps growing each year, showing how much a part of the community the annual celebration has become.

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, along with Councilmen Wilma Brown and Michael Ashford, attended the festival to extend community congratulations and thanks to the museum and all the coordinators.

Sara Stacy, an event spokesman, said the number of visitors rose from 2,500 to 4,000 last year, and there were about 100 more volunteers this year than at the previous festivals.

But Kim Penn, Committee for Cultural Diversity chairman, said that finding enough workers is difficult because the elaborate festival requires a year of work and collaboration.

"We struggle every year to make sure we have enough volunteers," she said.

"It takes a great effort to put this together," Ms. Penn said.

The volunteers strolling through the museum in orange shirts and bright smiles were more than eager to put in that effort, despite the blistering heat.

Bryson Fisher, a first-year volunteer, was eager to help, offering to run the busy Sno-Cone booth by himself.

"This is my first year, but I'm having a great time," Mr. Fisher said, preparing the cold treats for a line of perspiring customers. "Can I get you some more ice?"

Contact Maggie Reid at:

mreid@theblade.com or

419-724-6050.



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