When President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22nd 1863, most people were not even aware of it. This was especially true in Texas, which was still entirely in the hands of the Confederacy. News didn’t exactly travel fast in those days, if it even managed to travel at all.It was nearly three years later, and over two months after the Civil War had ended, when Union General Gordon Granger ascended to the balcony of Ashton Villa in Galveston to read General Order No. 3, which succinctly stated:
“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”
It was June 19th, 1865 and it marked the end of one era, and the beginning of a new one. Even though the days ahead were to be long and filled with struggle, African-Americans were finally considered as something more than property. Slaves were now free men and women.
Since then June 19th has become known and celebrated as Juneteenth. Texas was the first to recognize it is a state holiday under then Governor Bill Clements. 28 states followed along with informal celebrations around the world. This was especially true in San Marcos this weekend as the 14th annual Juneteenth Barbecue cookoff was held in City Park.
According to Juneteenth San Marcos’s website (www.juneteenthsanmarcos.com) the cookoff has been organized and hosted by Precinct 1 Constable David Peterson and all of the proceeds go to local charities, non profit organizations such as the women’s and youth shelter, along with scholarships for local high school students.
“I put this together back in 1994,” said Peterson who pointed out that it had started with five cooks at the Metro Center and had since grown so much it necessitated a move to City Park. The planning for this year’s event took about seven months.
Peterson had great things to say about the cooks for this year, calling them “the best of the best year after year” and pointing out that none of this would be possible without them and the volunteers. “It’s a lot of work,” said Peterson.
“We’ve got Chicken, Brisket, cook’s choice, Fajitas, Beans… This is Texas Barbecue. It’s not west or east. This is real Texas Barbecue,” said Peterson. “These cooks put their heart in it. There’s cooks that have been here since 1994.”
There were 25 cooks this year, which is less than the 36 cooks from last year. Peterson attributes this to a rise in gas prices making transportation difficult.
“People aren’t traveling and living like they did over the last few years,” said Peterson.
Peterson also had warm words for the sponsors of this year’s event. The lead sponsors were Budweiser, San n Pac, local attorney Tacie Zelhart, Bondoco Bonding, Ernie’s Body Shop, and G&L Communications, among others.
“Without these sponsors we couldn’t carry on the tradition we carry on for Juneteenth,” said Peterson.
San Marcos Place 4 city council member Chris Jones also was enthusiastic about this year’s event.
“Juneteenth San Marcos is a real opportunity for people in the community to come out and celebrate actual freedom,” said Jones. “One of the things we did different this year that’s kind of been different from every other year is we tried to pull all the events together and advertise them as a package.” Jones said that there are usually about five different groups in San Marcos that celebrate Juneteenth, such as the Dunbar Heritage Association, who holds various tournaments, and the Optimist Club, which organizes an annual car show
Another aspect to this year’s celebration was a parade that made it’s way around the square and down MLK to Dunbar Park.
“I think we had somewhere close to 45 to 50 parade entries this year,” said Jones. Many participants in the parade were local candidates running for city and county offices this year.
“If you think about it, it’s a community event, ” said Jones. “People that want to be public servants need to be talking to the public. They need to be out in public. I don’t think it was a political event.”
Both Peterson and Jones have high hopes for next year’s event.
“Next year we’re going to have some other activities,” said Jones. “We’re going to bring the Juneteenth Awards back.” These honor individuals that involve themselves in community service. Jones also mentioned that he would like to see more participant involvement through things like open mic poetry, speeches and oratory about the issues facing America.
“I would really like to bring a speak-off,” said Jones.
Finally, Peterson added, “I would like everyone to come out every year. Juneteenth Barbecue charity is for everybody in San Marcos and Hays County,” said Peterson. “It’s a family tradition.
Juneteenth San Marcos wraps up Sunday at 3 PM with Gospelfest at Jackson Chapel Methodist Church, at 524 Centre Street.
By SEAN WARDWELL
Note: The winners of the charity cookoff will be published as soon as Newstreamz are able to get a list of all the winners.
San Marcos Fire Department BBQ team. From Left to right: Tory Turner, Kaleb Johnson, Clint Foehner & Frank Arrendondo
Members of Cool Arrow BBQ/LULAC Branch 654
Vintage Hays County Sherrif’s car in Juneteenth parade
Robert Sierra of S&S Pit Crew
Photos by Sean Wardwell