More than 40 cars, trucks and floats lined up Saturday afternoon at Stingaree Stadium, 1501 Ninth Ave. N., to start the Texas City Juneteenth Parade.
“Tell the queens to line up over here,” said Debra Taylor, a committee member for the city’s Charles Brown Juneteenth Celebration, who was directing activity in the parking lot just before the 3 p.m. parade began.
She gathered 10 former Miss Juneteenth queens from past years so they could ride together down Ninth Avenue all the way to the Bay Street Park, 800 Bay St. N., where the parade would end and music would play into the night.
Excitement filled the stadium parking lot as parade participants talked about how Juneteenth became a national holiday on Thursday when President Joe Biden signed the bipartisan bill that had passed both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives just days earlier.
Juneteenth celebrates June 19, 1865, the day Union Army forces under the command of Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger occupied Galveston and read General Order No. 3, freeing slaves still in bondage in Texas.
After years of waiting for the grassroots celebration to become a national holiday, the speed of the bill becoming law this week surprised many.
“I wasn’t prepared,” said Tierrishia Gibson, Galveston County Democratic Party chairwoman. “I was hoping, but I wasn’t prepared. Now, we are going to have a whole different type of celebration.”
John Glover, another parade participant, had gone to La Marque City Hall Friday to pay his water bill but was surprised it was closed in observance of Juneteenth, he said.
“They put something in place right away,” Glover said. “It was good timing.”
Zoe Young helped her mother, Natasha Young, decorate the Word Power Church float. They had been talking earlier in the day about how little some students know about Juneteenth, they said.
“We were saying how important today is, how the slaves in Texas were the last to be freed and had no knowledge of it,” said Natasha Young, a pastor with the church.
“Texas has state history classes in college, but most of your young people don’t know about our history,” said Zoe Young, 18, and a student at College of the Mainland.
Bridgette Jones, 60, tied together stringed balloons for the Dirty South Riders motorcycle club.
“We’re very excited,” Jones said about the national holiday status of Juneteenth. “We’re still here, and we were able to see this.”
Next year, the community will bring back the queen pageant as part of the Juneteenth festivities, said Traci Payne, Miss Juneteenth 1979.
The annual Juneteenth event in Texas City is important, Taylor said between lining up vehicles and queens.
“We should teach the young kids what it is all about,” Taylor said. “We should teach them where their ancestors came from. We need to do it ourselves.”