Elijah Gray pays for an item from a booth owned by Paparazzi consultant Rhoda Wilson (foreground, right) and Jasmine Bruce (background, right).

Saturday afternoon, community members gathered together at Milford Lake to honor Juneteenth — the holiday that marks the end of slavery.

Because of today’s political climate, the organizers of the event thought it was especially important to mark the day, which people across the nation celebrate every year.

The event that took place beside Milford Lake Saturday was not the Junction City community’s usual Juneteenth celebration.

That city-sponsored event, which was supposed to take place June 13, was canceled due to concerns over COVID-19.

Saturday’s celebration was held independent of city support, by community members who just couldn’t stand to watch the holiday go by without some kind of festival.

It was organized by Jasmine Tipton, Jasmyn Griffin, Latricia Edwards, Tanisha Lashay, and Dawn Desperado.

Tipton believes it is vital for Juneteenth to go on in 2020.

“With the social climate that’s going on ... everybody’s arguing and bickering,” she said. “This also brings people together and realize That we were free-ish at one point, and we still have a long way to go. But we can accomplish a lot when we stick together … it will help us. Our struggle is strength, and if we put it all together, then we’ll be able to accomplish anything we need to.”

That, to her, is what Juneteenth is all about.

“We just want to celebrate,” Tipton said. “This is a really big holiday to bring the community together. It’s all about all races able to celebrate African Americans and to know that they’re still not free, but we are working for it and we do respect them. And we will help them in any way possible to be equal with anything — LGBT as well as African Americans and Latinos. This is for everybody, to celebrate us, by us.”

The celebration was entirely community funded.

“We thought that we could do it on our own so we got some donations from the community because it’s a community event,” Tipton said. “And everything is funded by them. They bought everything the vendors they also pitched in the buy stuff — all the food we’re giving out — free food, games, prizes.”

The event featured games, food, and prizes as well as vendor booths.

One of those vendors, Ashley Shanks, is a Junction City High School graduate who came all the way from Texas, where she makes her home now, to be a vendor at the festival.

She may not live here anymore, but Junction City is her hometown, Shanks said. She wanted to help when she heard the official Juneteenth celebration had been nixed and community members were planning to hold their own event.

“They have a lot of things going on in Texas, but I decided to come home and celebrate,” Shanks said. “This is my home, this is my family, and so I came to celebrate and support my community.”

Current events across the nation spurred her on to make the decision to come home for Juneteenth.

Jazzmn Smith, a community member from Fort Riley, came to the event to show support.

“It shows positivity,” she said. “The media’s showing a lot of negativity about our skin color, so this is showing some positivity for future generations.”

Smith celebrates Juneteenth every year.

“It shows unity and African American culture and raises recognition in the United States of our culture,” she said.

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