BROOKSVILLE — For the first time since its inception six years ago, the annual Juneteenth Festival, marking the end of slavery and celebrating African-American culture, has been canceled.
Chairman Paul Boston of sponsoring Just Us Inc., who put out the call last month for volunteers to establish festival booths marking various stages of slavery, from round-ups of blacks in Africa to their final emancipation in the United States, said not enough organizations came forward to take part.
Also proposed, for the first time, were cultural exhibits from local Latino and Caribbean communities. Entertainment and ethnic food were to be offered up.
Contributors did not come forward with financial support, Boston said.
The event had been scheduled for June 18-20 at Russell Street Park.
In a letter to past participants and donors, Boston wrote, "Despite your continued loyal support, our efforts to provide the community with a significant celebration fell short this year.
"Without financial assistance from local business, committee organizing, group participation and popular interest, Just Us Inc. finds it difficult to offer a festival, which needs more than a handful of supporters to be successful," he stated.
"It takes a lot of money to put on an event like this, $5,000, even with all our volunteers and city and county donated services," Boston said. Of the latter, he noted, "They did so much for us."
No sponsors came forward, Boston said, attributing it to the economy.
"So, it came down to vendors, selling space, and that only covered 25 percent of our cost." One signed-up vendor canceled, as did a stage act.
"We didn't get that much support from the acts," the chairman said. Musicians, actors, storytellers were planned.
"Also, we had a lackluster support from the community."
The organizing committee — 13 standing members and eight volunteers — considered reducing the festival to a one-day event. "But that even fell short," Boston said. "The committee just wasn't cohesive enough to pull it off."
The festival showcase proposed stages featuring historical re-enactors with interpreters and exhibits, from the round-up of slaves in Africa to their eventual emancipation. Noted Boston, "There are a lot of people who just want to forget slavery and move on."
He lamented, "I'm disappointed. But there's the economy, the political climate, other things. People just don't want to have a good time." For a good time, the festival planned recreational activities for kids, barbecued meals for all, musical entertainment.
"We'll move on for 2011," Boston said.
Beth Gray can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.