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Juneteenth continues to grow in Buffalo

Mike Desmond/WBFO News

The annual Juneteenth Festival in Martin Luther King Park enjoyed two good days of hot, steamy weather, though Sunday's rain did wash out some of the program. The wet burst did little to dampen the enthusiasm of festival organizers.

Juneteenth is a reminder of slaves in a corner of Texas learning the end of the Civil War had freed them, even if news of the Union defeating the Confederacy had taken weeks to get to a far corner of what was again the United States. The event is commemorated by the festival, an ever-larger event locally, with its clothing stands, restaurants and information booths circling the park's wading pool. 

"We seem to be growing every year, bigger and better," said Public Relations and Marketing Chair Jerome Williams.

"We're already the largest Juneteenth festival in the country and the numbers as well as activities that we do. Because, the activities that we do, we do them a week prior. We did seven days worth of activities leading up to the festival."

That covered everything from art festivals to an open mic poetry event.

Uzo was there, selling tours to Africa, as people show increasing interest in their history.

"It's exciting. That is one of things I tell them about. It is all you. You are there, Look like them, moving around. Nobody even notices you. You are the same color as them," said Uzo, whose tours take from 50 to 100 people to Africa each year.

More traditional fare was on hand at the festival. Rodney Wilkinson, owner of the Fire Spot, offered barbecued favorites.

"Our ribs, our chicken, we also have chicken, barbecue half chicken, macaroni and cheese," Wilkinson said. "Lots of cold drinks, although after the rain though, it kind of slowed down a bit."

Cold drinks weren't the only alternative for those seeking a break from the heat. Plenty of kids made good use of the splash pad at Martin Luther King Park.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.