GALLIPOLIS, Ohio — Finding a new way to continue the oldest celebration of its kind.
The Gallia County Emancipation Celebration Committee announced in a press release this week that the 157th annual Emancipation Celebration will be exclusively virtual on Sept. 20.
The decision was made at the Aug. 5 meeting after discussions with the Gallia County Health Department and recent announcements by the CDC and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine in regards to guidelines. Committee President Andy Gilmore noted a specific concern with attendees traveling in from outside areas.
“A lot of the people who attend the Emancipation Celebration are born and raised around here, but move to other cities,” Gilmore said. “We decided it would be safer to go virtually.
“We’re proud of the fact that we’ve been celebrating this emancipation continuously since 1863. That’s the reason we didn’t cancel like a lot of the other organizations around, because we want it to go on record that the 157th annual Emancipation Celebration was conducted.”
The virtual live stream can be found on the Emancipation Facebook page titled “Emancipation Proclamation Celebration” beginning at 10 a.m. on Sept. 20.
In the past, the event has featured historical reenactors, as well as activities set up for kids, but Gilmore noted that these things weren’t possible because of the pandemic.
Over the summer, the Gallia County Emancipation Celebration gained national recognition with a piece that appeared in The Washington Post debunking a myth that Juneteenth was the oldest celebration of emancipation and the end of slavery, stating that notoriety belonged to the event held in Gallipolis. With national recognition, and a virtual platform, Gilmore hopes the celebration will draw some outside interest this year.
Along with Gilmore, those scheduled to speak are Rev. Gene Armstrong, Minister Marlin Griffin, and President of the University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College Ryan Smith. Giving the prerecorded keynote speech is David N. Harris, president of the Carter Woodson Foundation in Huntington.
According to the Emancipation Weekend Committee’s website, the Emancipation Proclamation has been celebrated and observed in Gallia County continuously since 1863.
Some information provided by the Emancipation Celebration Day Committee.
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Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.