Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

St. Petersburg's Juneteenth festival melds history, fun

Alex Gilliam, 9, plays cymbals Saturday with the Mount Zion drum line at Juneteenth in St. Petersburg’s Campbell Park.


Alex Gilliam, 9, plays cymbals Saturday with the Mount Zion drum line at Juneteenth in St. Petersburg’s Campbell Park.

ST. PETERSBURG — Singers sang, politicians politicked, and shady trees saved an appreciative crowd at Saturday's Juneteenth Family Festival in Campbell Park.

Organizers provided something for everyone, from carnival games to live music and activities geared to the event. Social service organizations set up shop in the park's south end, ready to pass out literature and line up their best talking points on crime, substance abuse, life coaching and jobs.

The event, hosted by Juneteenth St. Pete and co-sponsored by the city, joins in the county's oldest celebration of the end of slavery.

"It goes a little bit into the culture and the history," said Troi Owens, 36, a senior probation officer with the Department of Juvenile Justice. "Especially in this climate, with the economy and the crime in the community — it's a fun, family day."

In a picnic pavilion, Deja Hampton, 10, carefully glued leopard-patterned cloth onto a two-gallon plastic drum. She was making lots of drums, she said.

Nearby, volunteers Jacqueline Shelby, 43, and Linda Ponder, 57, wrapped a purple cloth around the heads of women and girls in line. Hair wrapping is religious in some cultures, fashionable in others, Ponder said.

Every wrap is different, and the volunteers tried several loops, twists and knot on Jill Waldman, 41, before giving up. The cloth kept slipping off.

They wrapped the same cloth in a cinnamon-bun swirl around the head of Waldman's 8-year-old daughter, Parker. This time, it was a perfect fit.

An all-day musical lineup kept the mood upbeat, from the drum line by Mount Zion Progressive Missionary Baptist Church to recorded hip-hop and rhythm-and-blues handled by deejays.

Jazz pianist Alfred Sheppard and his N-Version Band dazzled the crowd in the finale. Sheppard, a 2009 Blake High graduate, is headed to the Berklee College of Music in the fall, where he has won a $20,000 scholarship for his playing and original compositions.

Word of the end of slavery, effective on Jan. 1, 1863, didn't reach some slaves for another 21/2 years — a detail emphasized in the Juneteenth program.

Most of today's young people don't know that history, said Juneteenth coordinator Faye Dowdell, 58. "That's why we keep trying," she said.

Andrew Meacham can be reached at or (727) 892-2248.

St. Petersburg's Juneteenth festival melds history, fun 06/20/09 [Last modified: Saturday, June 20, 2009 11:10pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. SPC's Bill Law leaves with pride for the faculty, concern for students — and a story about hotdogs


    ST. PETERSBURG — The local community college had already made a name for itself when William Law Jr. first arrived on campus in the early 1980s as a vice president. Still, the school, then named St. Petersburg Junior College, was just a shadow of the sprawling state college it would later become.

    Bill Law, outgoing St. Petersburg College president, said he is proud of the college cultivating stronger relationships with the community.
  2. Forecast: Pattern of hot, humid air and inland, late-day showers continues across bay area


    Storms again will pop up midday around Tampa Bay, but are forecast to mostly stick inland.

    Tampa Bay's 7 day. [WTSP]
  3. UCF suspends fraternity amid sex assault and hazing claims (w/video)


    ORLANDO — A University of Central Florida fraternity has been suspended while the school investigates allegations of sexual assault and hazing.

  4. Florida beats LSU, wins first College World Series title


    OMAHA, Neb. — Florida scored four runs in the eighth inning to pull away from LSU, and the Gators beat their SEC rival 6-1 Tuesday night to complete a two-game sweep in the College World Series finals for their first national title in baseball.

    UF’s Nelson Maldonado, left, and Deacon Liput high-five after a run scores.
  5. One killed, five injured in crash on Park Boulevard N in Pinellas Park


    Westbound lanes on Park Boulevard N have reopened at 62nd Way N in Pinellas Park following a fatal crash late Tuesday night.