Local groups are gearing up for an annual celebration dating back almost 150 years.


Local groups are gearing up for an annual celebration dating back almost 150 years.


On June 19, 1865, Union Soldiers landed at Galveston, Texas, with the news that the Civil War had ended. With this unprecedented event, Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, became the oldest known celebration of the ending of slavery. 


Morehouse Parish residents have been honoring Juneteenth for many years. Celebrations will be going on throughout the parish this Saturday.


The Morehouse Black Caucus will hold its annual summer Juneteenth Picnic from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at all local parks.


The City of Bastrop will hold its 35th annual celebration at 1 p.m. at Dotson Park. Public works director Willie McKee said they’ll have music with a D.J., vendors selling refreshments and basketball and softball tournaments.


“We’ll have the softball tournament on Dotson Park’s ball field with a trophy going to the winner,” he said. 


McKee said they’ll have two large water slides for the children, free sodas and popcorn.


The Bastrop police and fire departments will be there with equipment for demonstrations for the kids,” he said. “The mayor, police chief, fire chief and council members will be there too.” McKee said this will be a fun day in the park for both adults and children.


It allows the city employees to interact with the public in a more informal setting,” he said. “We had at least 400 to 500 people show up last year.”


Across town, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., patrons will also be celebrating at Ralph George Park on Meek Street, arranged by another group of Bastrop residents.  


“We’ve been doing this for over 20 years,” said co-coordinator Ivory Smith. “This was began by Eddy Davis, Cleo Davis, I.L. Davis and Joe Young.”


Smith said they will have music, a dance group from St. John Baptist Church, refreshments and water slides. 


“We’ll have speakers such as ministers and the sheriff [Mike Tubbs],” he said. “We also give away awards every year to some of our elderly citizens.”


Smith said with the help of donations from local churches, civic groups and other organizations, their celebration has been successful every year.


The city donates chairs and tables,” he said. “The donations we receive allow us to have free pizza, watermelon, hot dogs and BBQ chicken and ribs.”


Smith said the celebration is a great way to remind the younger generation of their past while looking forward to their future.


“This helps the young people to learn about slavery and learn about the things that are available to them now,” he said. “We really have a good time.”