Pompoms on parade

Juneteenth parade participants wave their pompoms while marching in downtown Denton on Saturday. The festival helps commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers arrived at Galveston with the news that all slaves were freed.

The Juneteenth parade traveled through downtown Denton on Saturday with floats, pageant contestants and candy as the procession made its way to celebrations at Fred Moore Park, where numerous people were honored.

With all the food, family and fun, Denton’s Juneteenth celebrations are about being with loved ones, remembering the past and coming together as a community.

Friends and families gathered at the park after the parade for festivities organized by the Denton Juneteenth Committee. The holiday commemorates the announcement of abolition in Texas on June 19, 1865.

People celebrated the first Juneteenth with food and entertainment, and that tradition continues today.

“[Juneteenth] is the time for us to come together as a community, to hang out and to have a fun time,” Trachana Lipscomb said.

Delbert Lipscomb said he and his family have been coming to the park for years to celebrate with loved ones. Since the ’60s, he said celebrations in Denton have grown from just families getting together to having vendors and bounce houses.

“[Celebrations have] picked up from when I was growing up,” he said. “We didn’t have as many vendors as we do now. We didn’t have a parade. All we did was families would gather at the park and we would just run wild and have fun and watch baseball. Now it has expanded.”

On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers landed in Galveston and announced slaves were free under the Emancipation Proclamation.

While the proclamation was signed two years before Juneteenth, it had little effect in Texas because there weren’t enough Union soldiers in the state to enforce it.

It wasn’t until April of 1865 that the proclamation was taken more seriously. This was after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered.

Despite there being more vendors now, the festival still has the family feel Lipscomb mentioned with parents watching over their kids as they play together and adults socializing.

Several people sported gray “I Love Juneteenth” shirts with a heart representing “love” — with the shape of Africa in the center.

“It’s about being unified with all races,” Lipscomb said. “It’s just showing, since I’ve grown, diversity.”

Miss Texas contestants Jaelene Luper of Arlington and Lauren Faria of Flower Mound were two of many pageant participants in the parade. Luper and Faria said they participated in the parade to show support.

“The focus is to make sure we are celebrating our history and where we’ve come from it and no, we don’t want to repeat it, so we need to acknowledge it,” said Luper, who holds the title of Miss Kennedale.

Faria, Miss Austin’s Outstanding Teen, said Juneteenth is part of America’s journey.

Fred Moore Park is also part of Denton County’s black history. Frederick Douglas Moore, for whom the park is named after, was an influential leader in education in the county.

The Denton County Historical Commission unveiled a historical marker for Moore on Saturday as well. The marker sits on park grounds facing Wilson Street near Bailey Street.

The county commission’s historical marker is its first to recognize an individual, said Elise Clements, a Girl Scouts of America ambassador.

Local leaders such as Mayor Chris Watts and council members were in attendance as Clements read aloud about Moore’s life.

Moore worked to provide African American children with an education in the 20th century at the Fred Douglass School. The park was named after him in 1948, and so was Fred Moore High School in 1950. He died in 1953.

“Moore, a highly respected African-American citizen of Denton, had a successful career in education,” the marker’s first sentence reads.

Other people honored Saturday were some of Denton’s “unsung heroes” at the Hometown Heroes Reception, presented by the Juneteenth Celebration Committee.

“They do things, they don’t take any credit for them, spur-of-the-moment or long-range, and they do things to help individuals,” Denton County NAACP President Willie Hudspeth said about the Hometown Heroes who were honored.

Most of the individuals recognized were educators. One hero was volunteer Richard Black.

Denton Parks and Recreation staffer Cheylon Brown said Black is nominated year after year for his work with the elderly community. He never goes to the reception because he “don’t do awards.”

This time around, Black did show up to the reception and hesitantly got his picture taken with Hudpseth and sponsors while laughing.

“One of the things I love about this program is [that] everybody that took these awards definitely would have never nominated themselves for anything,” Brown said. “They do what they do because they love this community.”

Juneteenth programs continue Wednesday with Denton resident Donald Norman-Cox’s “Juneteenth 101” program at 3 p.m. Wednesday in the Blagg-Huey Library at Texas Woman’s University. The program is free and open to the pubic.

ZAIRA PEREZ can be reached via Twitter at @zairalperez.

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