In March, the organization started handing out 5,000 postcards with information about the weekend of activities surrounding Juneteenth, which starts June 14 with an Evening Under the Stars concert from 7 to 11 p.m. at Glover Park on the Square.
The festival is June 15, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and will close down parts of North Park Square, East Park Square and Lawrence Street, and will coincide with the regular Saturday farmers market during the morning.
This year marks the event’s 10th anniversary, which Cobb County NAACP President Deane
Bonner said the event started with 300 to 400 people in attendance and 5 to 10 vendors the first year. From those humble beginnings, the event has grown into an expectation of 15,000 to 20,000 people on the Square for this year’s event, along with 100 vendors.
“Now we know we have a success,” Bonner said.
Bonner said the community sees the importance of the only Juneteenth celebration in Cobb County, and as one of the biggest in the metro Atlanta area. It throws a spotlight on Marietta.
“They know it is going to be positive, they know it is going to be safe, they know it is going to be rewarding,” Bonner said.
Tent sale and volunteers
A weekly planning committee met Thursday at the local branch of the NAACP off of Barnes Street, at 605 Roswell St., where a dozen members created plans for coordinating traffic and discussed progress on applications from performers, as well as food and retail booths.
Jeriene Grimes, a vice president of the Cobb County Chapter of the NAACP, said she expects to have 30 volunteers working two-hour blocks the day of the event, with an additional 20 to 30 students supplied by Cobb Works.
“You will work real hard at the beginning until we get kicked off,” Grimes said to the organizers.
Mattie Small said she has been a Juneteenth volunteer since the beginning, and as a vice president of the Cobb NAACP she helps anywhere that she is needed throughout the entire day.
“I will be there until it is all over to help clean up,” said Mattie, who normally arrives to setup at 7 a.m. Saturday.
In the past, merchants at Juneteenth provided their own tents and paid a $75 registration. For the first time this year, Elite Event Rentals is providing identical tents to each vendor, which raised the fee to $150, said Grimes.
She said the uniformity will help load sellers in and out of the spaces without the hassle of piecing together tent poles and keep merchants from encroaching on another space.
Grimes advised the planning committee to find something that is unique and specific, like a booth last year that only sold slices of watermelon for $2.
“They made a killing,” Grimes said.
Small is normally a vendor with two tents, one offering dessert specialties and one with fashion accessories. But this year, Small said she is focusing on the joy of serving.
“Remember to do everything with excellence and with a smile,” Grimes said at Thursday’s gathering.
Bonner said because of the bad economy the Cobb County NAACP asked local church congregations to attend Juneteenth and support local vendors, who have been told to keep offerings at an affordable range.
Grimes said there will be a children’s area with a moonwalk, plus complimentary popcorn and face painting.
Like in past years, free bottled water will be available through a sponsorship with Coca-Cola Co. and WellStar will administer health screenings, said Bonner.
She added, for the first time, the Friday night program will be entirely sponsored by one business, Ed Voyles Honda.
“Those are the partnerships that have made this grow,” Bonner said.
This year’s Juneteenth will be more decorated than in past years with balloon towers at the information center and stage, Grimes said.
Bonner said Saturday performers don’t have to be professionals.
“If your daughter sings in church, sign her up to fill a slot,” Bonner said.
Grimes said the line-up for An Evening Under the Stars is more adult-orientated.
“Friday night, people come looking for a little bit above,” Grimes said.
Next week, Grimes said she will start rehearsals of a dance routine for a 100-person flash mob.
“I enlisted the help of a Zumba instructor,” Grimes said.
She added the group will do an impromptu performance on the Square June 1 to promote Juneteenth and then again during the event “as something different to spark interest.”
“We have Juneteenth to be on the Marietta Square in large numbers,” Bonner said. “You are going to see the diversity of Cobb County.”
Juneteenth celebrations across the U.S. commemorate the end of slavery, and Bonner said it is important for future generations to know the history of the Emancipation Proclamation.
Grimes said it is a time “to celebrate where we are, and how we have advanced as a nation of people of all hues.”
Bonner said organizing the event each year has helped solidify a partnership between Cobb Elections and the local NAACP.
Their combined booth gives participants a chance to register to vote or join the Cobb NAACP, which currently has 200 members.
Bonner said both political parties are represented at Juneteenth, but this is the first year for the League of Women Voters and American Association of University Women.
Cobb NAACP discourages candidates for the upcoming city elections from passing out material at Juneteenth unless they have rented a space. So far, only mayoral candidate Charles Levinson has signed up for a tent, said Grimes.
Grimes notes that Juneteenth is “not a forum for race discussion,” but a peaceful event to show cultural unity without any crime or security concerns.
There is no beer, wine or liquor options available from Juneteenth vendors.
“That wasn’t a desire of ours,” Grimes said.
She added, “We want every age, race and creed to come out and have a great time.”