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Sun Prairie to celebrate Juneteenth at Wetmore Park on June 19 as annual event continues to grow

(L-r) Mizzier Campbell, Teran Peterson, and Latoya Holiday at Sun Prairie Juneteenth (Photo supplied.)

The annual Sun Prairie Juneteenth Festival will be the scene of a variety of family-friendly activities, performances, community resources, cultural vendors, and a free community meal on Wednesday, June 19, 4-7 p.m. at Wetmore Park on Sun Prairie’s East Side. 

“It’s going to be a beautiful day, and we have a brand new shelter out there and a great splash pad at Wetmore Park,” Teran Peterson, organizer of Sun Prairie Juneteenth, tells Madison365. “I think I’m most looking forward to having hair braiders and barbers from Mr. Rudd’s Barbershop giving out free haircuts to kids. No sign-up is needed. Just come on out. 

“We’ve got a community kickball game. Anyone and everyone is welcome to come and participate. Those have always been really successful in the past for us. And then, of course, we have a free dinner,” Peterson continues. “So we’ve got some Black-owned businesses being featured to cater the dinner and we’ve got local celebrities that will be firing up on the grill – chicken and brats and burgers and stuff like that.”

 This year, there will be a variety of engaging performances including poetry readings by Northside Elementary POETICS, a group of students who will share original pieces reflecting themes of freedom, identity, and resilience. There will also be a dance performance by Gospel Afrobeat offering a rhythmic fusion of traditional and modern African-derived movements.

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, a day when African-American slaves in Texas were told by Union forces that they were free. They were the final group of slaves to realize their freedom. Deep in the Confederacy, they were unaware of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation almost two years earlier. A celebration of the day has been held annually in Texas ever since, which eventually spread to other states.

“It’s incredible to think that it took so long for news from Virginia to travel to Texas. I think that Juneteenth today should be a day of really embracing the progress we have made now in 2024 but also realizes that there’s a lot more work to do,” Peterson says.

While the city of Madison has been hosting a Juneteenth celebration since 1990, the Sun Prairie Juneteenth is still pretty new, although it has been growing a little bit each year. And while the Black community in Sun Prairie is rather small, Peterson says, it also is growing.

“Sun Praire has a small, close-knit Black community, and knowing that this [event] came out of a neighborhood park, and it’s grown with the same people still involved, is kind of cool,” she says. “Just seeing it grow year after year, seeing the Boys and Girls Club come in [to Sun Prairie] and seeing Community Schools come in … everybody has really good intentions in bringing services to folks and making folks feel welcome here. And I think this Juneteenth event is just another example of that. 

“We’ve only been hosting this event for about four years, so we definitely see new people and new faces that come out … so that’s always exciting. Sun Prairie Juneteenth is a day where folks come out and everybody is able to participate. You don’t have to buy tickets; you don’t have to be a certain age. Literally, everybody is invited,” Peterson adds.

The Sun Prairie Juneteenth Planning Committee organizes this festival each year and the event is helped tremendously by about 20 hard-working volunteers.

“You don’t have to work that day [because it’s the Juneteenth Holiday], so let somebody else serve you food. That’s always really nice. We have 25 vendors that are either coming to sell products or to share information about what they do and how they help the community,” Peterson says. Sun Prairie Juneteenth will feature a designated area for community resources and vendors specializing in goods and services tailored to the needs of the African American community. “It’ll be interesting to see because we have some new faces that have signed up to be a part of the resource fair.”

Badgerettes with Big T from “Tales With Big T” at Sun Prairie Juneteenth 
(Photo by Lisha Terre)

Sun Prairie Juneteenth attendees can immerse themselves in a range of activities provided by GO-CART, a mobile recreation and arts service jointly offered by Prairie Music & Arts and the City’s Parks, Recreation & Forestry Department, that features over 50 recreational games, toys, musical instruments, and visual art supplies. Additionally, for those seeking to delve into the significance of Juneteenth through literature, the Dream Bus will provide access to a wide selection of books to explore.

“It’s a good day of fun and every year gets a little bit bigger. We have some prizes for some trivia games and stuff this year,” Peterson says. “DJ M White will be with us for the day. He’s great.

“Sun Prairie Juneteenth is a really laid-back event. It’s nice to be able to share a meal and some time with the community, and it’s nice to be able to just kind of come together and spread some joy,” Peterson adds.

For individuals and organizations interested in reserving space as a vendor or exhibitor, contact Teran Peterson at [email protected]. The planning team continues to seek sponsorship for this event. Businesses and organizations interested in becoming sponsors are encouraged to reach out to Latoya Holiday at [email protected].