Juneteenth celebrates freedom, culture

Comedian George Wallace and cast members from "Stomp Out Loud" will join Skip Martin, lead singer of the platinum-selling funk-pop group Kool & The Gang, as the headlining acts for the annual citywide Juneteenth Festival.

The free event will take place from 4 to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Sammy Davis Jr. Festival Plaza inside Lorenzi Park, 720 Twin Lakes Drive.

The two-day festival features food, music, entertainment, exhibitors, family and children's activities, guest speakers and performers. For further details, call 255-3001.

Juneteenth recognizes June 19, 1865, the day Union Gen. Gordon Granger told slaves in Galveston, Texas, they were free -- nearly 21/2 years after the Emancipation Proclamation had ended slavery. The news sparked days of celebration. Juneteenth is recognized as the nation's oldest African-American holiday observance.

The local festival also will be a fundraiser for Rainbow Dreams Academy, a charter school that opened in February 2008. The school promotes scholastic achievement via academic rigor, small classroom sizes and data-based instructional curriculum.