GALLIPOLIS — The Emancipation Celebration Weekend returns this year to the Gallia County Junior Fairgrounds Sept. 22-23 with West Virginia State University President Dr. Anthony Jenkins serving as its keynote speaker.
According to the Emancipation Weekend Committee’s website, the Emancipation Proclamation has been celebrated and observed in Gallia County continuously since 1863. The Gallia County Emancipation Day Celebration is reported to be one of the longest continuous running celebrations of the Emancipation Proclamation in the United States.
Historically, the celebration originally was always celebrated on the 22nd of September. This coincided with President Lincoln’s historic signing of the Emancipation Proclamation which declared slaves “thenceforth and forever more free.” It was conducted in a religious atmosphere. Activities and games such as baseball, sack racing, hog calling and greasy pole climbing were included to stimulate the interest and maintain enthusiasm. Bands, famous orators, politicians, parades, dance and queen contests were also included in the celebration.
Kerr Station, Vinton “bean dinner” Park, Bush Park, Bidwell-Porter, Gallipolis City Park, Gallia County Fairgrounds and most recently Bob Evans Farms in Rio Grande have served as locations for the annual celebration. As many as 2,500 people have attended the celebration. In recent years, people from as far away as California, New York, Texas, Florida and Canada have been represented.
Events will begin at the Gallia County Fairgrounds at 10 a.m. with an opening ceremony Sept. 22. A free barnyard express will be ran by Bryson Payne with Birthday Chronicles held by Area Agency on Aging District 7. Individuals can also register to vote during the Emancipation Celebration in their area elections.
Bill Jackson with Civil War Troops will hold a raising of the flag ceremony. Musical selections will be performed by the River Valley High School Band. The Pledge of Allegiance will be led by Gallia Sub-District Youth. Emancipation Celebration Committee President Andrew Gilmore will welcome visitors and the invocation will be given by Minister Marlin Griffin. Jeannie Williams will lead the Negro Anthem. A Holzer Health Fair announcement will be made by its community health and wellness staff.
At 10:30 a.m., Kids Fun Day begins. An offering will be taken and special music will be performed by Steve Ball, Civil War musician.
Two programs will be held at 1 to 2 p.m. and 2 to 3 p.m. with the visiting Wave on Wheels Newport Aquarium.
At 2 p.m., an afternoon program will be held. Emancipation Celebration Committee Vice-President Glenn Miller will welcome local, state and national dignitaries. Miller will also recognize a past president of the committee. Remarks will be given by Gallia County and Gallipolis City Commission officials. Special entertainment will be led by Lawrence Greene and Company, focusing on African drumming and dance. Remarks will be given by Michael Crutcher and Gerald Payn as they interpret the historical personas of Frederick Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln, respectively.
Arthur Clark will make presentations for this year’s Emancipation Celebration Scholarship winners. A youth dance featuring a DJ will be held from 6 to 8 p.m.
On Sunday, a 10 a.m. worship service will be held. Welcomes will be made by Miller and musical selections will be held by a combined church choir. A devotional will also be led by Miller. Rev. Dr. Gene Armstrong, of Mount Carmel Baptist Church, will introduce the morning’s sermon, given by Rev. Joseph Woods, associate minister of Pilgrim Mission Baptist in Columbus.
At 2 p.m., Gilmore will welcome visitors, give special remarks and introduce the weekend’s keynote speaker, President of West Virginia State University, Dr. Anthony Jenkins. Musical selections will be given by Chelsea Price, of Madison, W.Va. Special remarks will then be given by Brent Saunders, chair of the Board of Directors of Holzer Health System. Gilmore will give closing remarks.