“It’s good weather, good food, good energy … It’s a phenomenal day,” said Deane Bonner, president of the Cobb chapter of the NAACP.
Bonner thanked Attorney General Sam Olens, Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin and Cobb Commission Chairman Tim Lee for opening the ceremony.
Juneteenth, usually celebrated June 19, marks the day in 1865 when Union soldiers arrived in Texas and became the catalyst for the liberation of Texan slaves, according to Juneteenth.com. With General Robert E. Lee’s surrender two months earlier, incoming Union forces were finally able to enforce what had been written into law in the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, the website says.
Bonner said there were more than 100 vendors on the Square on Saturday. Cobb’s NAACP chapter is the fourth largest of the 103 chapters serving Georgia, according to Bonner.
This year also marks the first year of the Mayor’s Award, which was given by Tumlin to Bonner’s daughter, Marietta Board of Education member Jeriene Bonner-Grimes. Grimes is co-chair of the event along with Tumlin and Tanya LaFleur.
“It’s a very prestigious award,” Bonner said. “Tumlin has given us funds to promote this award and there are also cash gift certificates. (Grimes) is the first recipient of this award. From this Juneteenth on, there will be a Marietta Mayor’s Award given to some person.”
Among the 100-plus vendors at Saturday’s event was Ryan Goodwin, who came from Phenix City, Ala., with his mother, Terri Goodwin, wife, Nikki Goodwin, daughter, Alyvia Goodwin and mother-in-law, Zina Morris.
“I came by to support the local community and enjoy this warm weather we have here in Atlanta,” Ryan Goodwin said. “The whole family’s out here. I wanted them to get out here, get out in the park, walk around and enjoy the festivities.”
Goodwin and his mother were serving drinks from their weekend business, Fruit Shakers, to festival-goers.
“I like meeting all the people, it’s fun,” Terri Goodwin said. “You make friends and they invite you back next year.”
This year’s Cobb Juneteenth celebration is a three-day extravaganza and will continue on the Square today.
Bonner said about 3,000 attended Friday night’s festivities, and estimated between 40,000 and 50,000 turned out Saturday. Gospelfest, which takes place today, is new to this year’s event.
Le’Andria Johnson, the season three winner of BET’s competition show “Sunday Best,” will perform at Gospelfest.
“When people heard she was performing, they wondered how we got her,” Bonner said of the singer, who won a Grammy in 2012.
Someone familiar with Cobb NAACP knew Johnson and invited her to sing, according to Bonner.
Bonner said the organization spent the last 11 weeks getting ready for the festival.
“This was a true joint effort,” Bonner said. “We’re happy with our partnership with the City of Marietta.”