For the first time, the Juneteenth celebration in New Castle was an event sponsored by the city.

And the city showed up for it.

The two-day event in Cascade Park, which wrapped with a fireworks show Saturday evening, was put on by a coalition created to organize this year’s event, including the nonprofit The Cultural Committee of New Castle, the city chapter of the NAACP, the local branch of the International Ministerial Association, Son of the City — a nonprofit started by city native and retired Navy Chief Brian Kelly Rice — and Game Changer, an after-school mentorship program in New Castle started by Army veteran Laura Colvin.

“We did a lot. It’s good that we got more help,” said CCNC Treasurer Samareese Richardson.

City Councilman David Ward, who pushed for the event to be city-sponsored, said he wanted the event to be a time of peace and fellowship.

“We honor those who went through tremendous sacrifice so that we can be free,” said Apostle David M. Young of Prevailing Word World Outreach Center. “May we come together in fellowship and get to know each other better.”

The event featured music, games, dancing and fellowship, featuring black-owned businesses and organizations in town.

Young gave the opening prayer on Friday, while Pastor Alonzo Waters, of Fresh Wind Ministries, spoke briefly about the history of Juneteenth.

Juneteenth, which was established as a federal holiday in 2021, marks when the last group of Black slaves were freed in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, ending slavery in the United States.

Although President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves on Jan. 1, 1863, it could not be enforced in many places in the South until the Civil War ended in 1865. Other names for the holiday include Jubilee Day, Emancipation Day, Freedom Day and Black Independence Day.

“It is a time for us to reflect and how far we’ve come,” Waters said.

Waters said all Americans should not forget the past, considering 197,000 Black soldiers fought in the Civil War, in which 40,000 were killed.

At the same time, he wants all Black Americans to remember the freedoms those soldiers fought for and not feel disheartened or disenfranchised in this country.

“Today, we’re celebrating freedom, but also to make the most out of the freedom that we’ve been given,” Waters said.

Debbra Byers sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” known as the Black national anthem, while Pastor Patti Austin gave the opening prayer on Saturday. St. Luke Amezion Church’s the Rev. Arthur L. Holloway II spoke on Saturday.

NAACP President Lawrence Williams said the event was something that could be celebrated by everyone, while Dr. Stephanie Toliver views Juneteenth as a celebration of Black history and excellence but that there is still a long way to go for total acceptance.