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'Best Thing In The World': Vermont Celebrates Juneteenth

A person holding their arms up high in front of a group of people under a tent in front of brick buildings
Elodie Reed
The Lake Champlain Mass Choir, directed here by Andrea Ogle on Saturday in Burlington's City Hall Park, was among the many performers, food businesses and educators who were part of the city's first annual Juneteenth celebration.

People across Vermont celebrated the now-federal holiday Juneteenth on Saturday.

At City Hall Park in Burlington, hundreds turned out for the city’s first-ever Juneteenth celebration.

Burlington’s Office of Racial Equity, Inclusion and Belonging hosted the day-long event, which celebrated African American culture with musical performances, art installations, food vendors, and more.

Juneteenth is the commemoration and celebration of the ending of slavery in the United States. And while this was the first official Juneteenth in Burlington, it is a widely celebrated event in other parts of the country.

Two adults and a young child smile on a green lawn
Credit Elodie Reed / VPR
Burlington residents Mimi, Chris and 1-year-old Mazin Eide enjoy Juneteenth celebrations in City Hall Park on Saturday. Mimi said while there are still systemic issues to address, the first-annual holiday was a good start. "It feels so good to be seen and celebrated," Mimi said.

Skyler Nash worked on the planning committee. He said the celebration exceeded his expectations.

“Everybody... is walking around maskless and smiling and healthy and you know, together, and giving hugs and shaking hands, it's like the best thing in the world,” Nash said.

Organizers say there are plans to make Juneteenth an annual celebration in the Queen City.

More from VPR: Burlington's First Juneteenth Celebration To Acknowledge Black History, Freedom & Resilience

A young person and an older person stand looking at each other in front of a green wall
Credit Elodie Reed / VPR
ECHO Center STEM and exhibits project manager Chris Whitaker talks to Richmond 7-year-old Madison Donovan about black-eyed peas, a legume native to West Africa and a traditional New Year's Day food for African Americans. ECHO partnered with Charlotte-based Clemmons Family Farm to have visitors plant heritage seeds and learn the history of Black farming in Vermont.

In Hartford, well over 100 people gathered in a grassy field along the White River to celebrate Juneteenth.

Norwich resident Liz Blum came out to the festivities. She said the holiday isn’t just a celebration

"It also allows us to learn a lot more about United States’ history that we were never taught," she said.

The event featured poetry, performances, and speeches by educators and elected officials, including Congressman Peter Welch. 

People sit on grass in front of a white building with a green roof
Credit Lexi Krupp / VPR
Rep. Peter Welch speaks at the Hartford Juneteenth celebration on Saturday.

State Rep. Kevin "Coach" Christie, a Democrat from Windsor County, spoke about the continued struggle for racial equality. He ended his remarks with a song. 

"These green hills and silver waters are my home. They belong to me and to all her sons and daughters let us be strong ... And forever free."

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Elodie is a reporter and producer for Vermont Public. She previously worked as a multimedia journalist at the Concord Monitor, the St. Albans Messenger and the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript, and she's freelanced for The Atlantic, the Christian Science Monitor, the Berkshire Eagle and the Bennington Banner. In 2019, she earned her MFA in creative nonfiction writing from Southern New Hampshire University.
Marlon Hyde was Vermont Public’s first news fellow, from 2021 to 2023.
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