DENVER (KDVR) — The Mile High City is set to see a busy weekend.
Juneteenth will be a state holiday for the first time ever in Colorado. Community members and leaders say they have been waiting for this to happen for decades.
Juneteenth has been celebrated in Denver for nearly 70 years.
“It has been a holiday here in Five Points since the ’50s, and we’ve been celebrating as such,” said Norman Harris, longtime festival organizer.
For the first time, Juneteenth is now a state holiday after lawmakers passed legislation at the Capitol and Gov. Jared Polis signed it state law.
“Every year, we brought up the fact that Juneteenth should be a holiday and the governor was fully behind it. So it has taken many years, but we are here now. It’s official and we will be celebrating all weekend,” said state Sen. Janet Buckner, a main sponsor of the bill that became law.
Juneteenth festival in Five Points a signature celebration
A big part of the celebration is the Juneteenth Music Festival in Five Points.
The parade is a major staple in the city but this year, the day of the festival coincides with the Colorado Avalanche Stanley Cup game, something organizer Norman Harris said is a win.
“It’s definitely an added bonus. If the Avs game is going maybe you’ll come down and get some lunch before then make your way to the celebration or vice versa,” Harris said.
With the holiday changing this year, Harris said the festival will be a little different too.
“We’re branding the celebration as ‘The Classic’ this year, because we understand there are going to be celebrations happening all over the city and all over the country,” Harris said.
Although people will get to celebrate with music, food and now an additional day off work for some, leaders say the purpose behind the holiday should be remembered long after this weekend ends.
“Juneteenth is real. Many, many people were enslaved. Slavery was abominable. Slavery can never happen again. We need to remember that we cannot forget that people were slaves,” Buckner said.
“This is a day right now where we are immediately focused on some of the beautiful aspects of African American culture. What we hope is that the seed is planted and we start to develop some habits that continue us in cycles to support African Americans at frequency,” Harris said.
There are about 30,000 state workers who will get to commemorate this day Monday. Go here for more information about this year’s celebration in Five Points.