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Bloomington-Normal and other Central Illinois communities are preparing for a series of Juneteenth celebrations.

Juneteenth, celebrated on June 19, marks the day in 1865 when enslaved people in Texas learned they were free, two years after the Emancipation of Proclamation (the document signed by Abraham Lincoln that freed the slaves). It’s a day of remembrance and celebration of African American freedom and achievements. The celebrations will include a variety of activities, entertainment, and opportunities for community engagement. Bloomington-Normal, Lincoln, and Peoria will each take part in these celebrations.

Miller Park in Bloomington

The Bloomington-Normal community and the McLean County Museum of History are gearing up for a day of entertainment during the Juneteenth celebration on June 22, hosted by the Bloomington-Normal Black History Project and the City of Bloomington.

This event at Miller Park is for a day filled with live entertainment, a dedicated children’s area, a variety of vendors and food trucks. Admission is free.

In addition to the main festivities, Miller Park Zoo and its miniature golf course will offer free admission. The McLean County Museum of History also says the event will also honor three individuals for their outstanding contributions to the community, with the honorees to be announced soon.

Bloomington Public Library

The Bloomington Public Library will host a Juneteenth celebration event June 19 by bringing in children’s author Janice Harrington. Games, resources, and more information about the historical holiday are expected.

The Bloomington Public Library says the first 200 people who complete and turn in their Juneteenth passport will receive a free book and a treat, made possible by the Illinois Prairie Community Foundation, Bobzbay Books, and Miss Kim Konfections.

Safe Harbor / Salvation Army

The Salvation Army of McLean County will host a Juneteenth Block Party from 12-4 p.m. Tuesday, June 18, in the alley in front of the Safe Harbor shelter on 208 N. Oak St., Bloomington.

The event will have opportunities to create support systems, networking, and agency accessibility. There will also be food, games, music and giveaways.

Partners include Eastview church, Labyrinth, Reentry Council, Home Sweet Home, Electrical Worker Minority Caucus, PSLS, McLean County Health Department, Chestnut Health Systems, and WEI.

Lincoln

The Hunt For Foundation (HFF) has announced its 5th annual Juneteenth Festival and invites everyone to join in celebrating community, culture, and progress. The festival will be held on June 19, from 4-8 p.m. at Latham Park in Lincoln. That’s about 30 miles southwest of Bloomington-Normal. The event will feature live music, children’s programs, activities, a vendor fair, and a cookout.

The foundation also says there will be competitions that include contests for the best sweet potato pie, pound cake, rib tips, and brisket. The planning committee seeks young people to portray historical figures and share stories of African-American history. Interested individuals should contact huntfordoundation@gmail.com.

Peoria

Just down the road in Peoria, the YANI Collective and the Juneteenth Committee will host its Juneteenth Festival on Saturday, June 15, at John Gwynn Park. This year’s event will include a Juneteenth Parade hosted by the NAACP Peoria Branch, a Miss Juneteenth Pageant hosted by former Miss Illinois and current WEEK 25 news anchor Brett Brooks, and a Battle of the Runway fashion show hosted by former America’s Top Model Lexii Loushell.

Other activities include an Alumni Basketball Game, a health fair featuring free medical vendors and testing, bounce houses, a dodgeball machine, a dunk machine, a dunk station with Peoria’s police chief, an elected officials introduction, food, and more.