“Growing up, Norm Harris never had the date for Denver’s Juneteenth celebration circled on his calendar. He never got a flyer about it or saw a poster announcing the annual event. But every June, as the day got closer, Harris could sense it.
“I always felt like there was a certain energy in the city that compelled people to start asking, when is Juneteenth?” said Harris, 38, president of the Juneteenth Music Festival. “I’m trying to recreate that spirit and energy in my community.”
Celebrated every June 19, Juneteenth marks the day in 1865 when the last slaves in Texas learned they were free — nearly two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. In Denver, Juneteenth celebrations started in the 1950s, peaking in popularity during the 1980s when Harris was growing up in Five Points, where he still owns a business.
The festival’s popularity waned during the 1990s and early 2000s until a group led by Harris relaunched the event in 2012. Harris expects 20,000 people to attend this year’s 150th anniversary celebration, which includes a parade featuring Miss Juneteenth, an art walk and a music festival featuring 20 bands on five stages in the area around 26th and Welton Streets.
The celebration continues to evolve each year, but Harris said its goal remains the same: to raise awareness about the historical and cultural significance of the day and to build and strengthen relationships within the Five Points neighborhood.”
Iannetta, Jessica. Denver Post 19 June 2015.