It was 15 years ago LaVon Woods decided Chandler and the East Valley needed its own Juneteenth celebration to mark the end of slavery in the United States.
Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, the day slaves in Galveston, Texas, first learned they were free and that the Civil War had ended. The announcement came nearly two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which outlawed slavery.
"It’s actually the biggest celebration of freedom for black folks around," Woods said. "It’s not just a black celebration; we encourage everybody to come and celebrate with us."
This year’s events, sponsored by the South Chandler Self-Help Foundation, kicks off Friday with the Miss Juneteenth Pageant.
"First of all, this is not a beauty pageant," she said. "We do this to celebrate the many shapes, sizes and colors of the African-American woman."
The scholarship pageant, now in its fifth year, is open to black students ages 15-20.
Festivities continue Saturday with a free community picnic along with games and entertainment at Zora Folley Park.
Juneteenth celebration, pageant
When: Pageant, 7 to 10 p.m. Friday; celebration, 5 to 11 p.m. Saturday
Where: Pageant at the Chandler Center for the Arts, 250 N. Arizona Ave.; celebration at Zora Folley Park, 601 E. Frye Road
Information: (480) 899-3022