Cloudy skies didn't keep a big crowd from attending the annual Juneteenth celebration in Brandon Park. The Friendship Social Club raised more than $3,000 to provide a barbecue meal to everyone who showed up. The non-profit group got a lot of help from donations this year.
J.W. Johnson, vice president of the Friendship Social Club, said, "The club helps everyone of all races, whether it be with utilities, medical bills, bereavement funds."
Dozens of people also showed up for the first annual Juneteenth celebration in Jones Park. The North Lufkin Neighborhood Association sponsored the event. Organizers said they're not trying to separate themselves from the Brandon Park program, but they wanted a more kid-oriented event that could showcase young people.
The Jones Park celebration featured a 'Mr. and Miss Juneteenth' pageant for kids from the North Lufkin area.
Lela Simmons, president of the North Lufkin Neighborhood Association, said, "We're not trying to make it separate. It's because we have the pool over here and we want splash day, that's the difference, and then they don't have the 'Mr. and Mrs. Juneteenth' [pageant]."
Some of the things North Lufkin residents noticed at Monday's Juneteenth celebration were obvious. Last year, there was no camera towering over Brandon Park.
Angela Simmons said, "I notice a different atmosphere here. I think I see more people in the community that's more concerned about the community."
But Lufkin residents who have celebrated Juneteenth there for years said more changes need to be made.
Bob Hamilton said, "I think they should have more programs for the kids and that would probably eliminate some of the other people that's coming around. I just don't see any organized programs for the kids."
Simmons and Hamilton agree on one thing; North Lufkin residents should also work to change their neighborhood, instead of relying on law enforcement alone.
"This is one of the positive aspects that the community offers, Brandon Park," Simmons said. "There is a need for such programs as this and hopefully, we will be able to offer more and have more accountability of things that's positive to offer the Brandon Park community."
Monday's event wasn't just about food, fun, or even freedom, senior residents got free, helpful information about Medicare D and Pastor Tracy Collins of Canaan Missionary Baptist Church challenged families to look at their moral and personal values.
Despite the serious tone of the celebration, the spirit of Juneteenth was still felt all over the park.