FARRELL – Mayor Olive McKeithan is ready to shed some taboos at this year’s Valley Juneteenth celebration at Veteran’s Square Park.
This year’s theme focuses on mental health, drug abuse and gun violence, and McKeithan wants to the community to know it’s OK to say ‘I’m not OK.’
“We want people to know it’s OK to talk,” McKeithan said. “Someone is here to listen to you.”
The Juneteenth celebration kicks off at 3 p.m. Friday with Sourlife, a hip-hop group based in Pittsburgh, performing at 5 p.m.
The Praise Fest event opens Saturday’s festivities at 11 a.m. McKeithan said anyone planning on participating in Praise Fest should wear a white top and denim pants.
Gospel Fest begins at 2 p.m. in which choir members from around the county will perform their favorite worship songs. The Pittsburgh-based Bill Henry Band takes the stage at 5 p.m.
Saturday will also feature a three-on-three basketball event organized by Terrence Crumby. Those interested in participating will be able to sign up at Veteran’s Square.
McKeithan said there will be vendors set up throughout the weekend, a “kiddy land” for the youngsters, a DJ, as well as more than $300 in giveaways.
This year’s celebration will also feature workshops with multiple speakers who will give testimonials on their battles with mental health and drug addiction.
“I do know that people do have a lot of inner feelings and don’t know who to talk to,” McKeithan said. “That’s why they have to learn to say, ‘let’s talk about this – let’s deal with this.”’
This year marks the 25th anniversary of Farrell’s Juneteenth celebration. African-American communities across the U.S. celebrate Juneteenth, which marks the arrival of federal troops on June 19, 1865, in Galveston, Texas, to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation issued more than two years earlier by Abraham Lincoln.
In addition to being a celebration of the end of slavery, McKeithan, the former director of the minority health department at Sharon Regional Medical Center, said the event also started as a way to promote a healthy lifestyle within the community.
“But if you’re doing the healthy thing, that means you can’t have the ribs and all that stuff,” McKeithan joked.
In line with the festival’s health-oriented roots, McKeithan said CPR lessons for adults and children will be given by Sharon Regional representatives throughout the weekend.
McKeithan added that there is still time to sign up to be a vendor at the event. Those interested can apply on the City of Farrell’s website.