Like many events that have been impacted by the coronavirus crisis, so too is the annual Juneteenth Festival, which has now been cancelled for this year.
Organizers agreed given the time that the event would have been held during the summer, and the ongoing health concerns not only in but also outside of Wharton, it would be best to focus on 2021.
Clifford Jackson, who organized a group of local citizens to form a committee late last year, said an economic impact on the festival would have been felt given what many are going through. He doubts that the festival would have attracted thousands of visitors like the previous years because of the crisis many outside of Wharton are feeling too.
“Our efforts started back a few months ago and things were coming together,” said Jackson, who is also a Wharton city councilman.
Before the coronavirus crisis curtailed the Juneteenth committee’s plans in March, Jackson said soliciting for sponsorship was being done and received well. He also said there had been two bands that had been interested in performing and a lineup of vendors along and across Monterey Square was going very well.
“It really was coming together, but the virus put a stop to it,” Jackson said. He said organizers had spoken a month before to get an idea of where the festival stood.
The City of Wharton gave the green light for the festival to be held on Saturday, June 13.
During a regular meeting on Monday, March 9, Wharton elected officials unanimously voted to contribute $2,000 to the Juneteenth Festival that for nearly a decade had been named after its founder, Robert Simmons, Jr.
When Wharton citizens, including Jackson, had been hearing that Simmons and co-founder, Paul Kearney, Jr., would not be part of the festival, confirming those rumors was important.
After organizing a meeting earlier this winter, those rumors became true, leading locals to move forward.
It would have been held in Monterey Square with a stage for entertainers to perform their music.
The City of Wharton had plans to waive fees associated with the temporary permit for the consumption and possession of alcoholic beverages. According to the contract, the sale and consumption of beer would have been in front of 110 South Houston. The contract also reads that security officers would have been hired and payment for officers would have come from the Hotel and Motel Tax Revenue. These services would have been coordinated with the Wharton Police Department.