Family events mark the anniversary of slavery's end

"First and foremost, it's a free family event," Gaddy said.

The festivities kick off at 4 p.m. on Friday at Jerry Burrell Park, where a basketball competition will feature slam-dunk and three-point contests. At 6, an "Honoring the Ancestors" program will be held at Vale Cemetery, followed by soul food dinners and a concert by Azaam Hameed in Central Park at 7:15.

Saturday, a parade through Hamilton Hill begins at 10 a.m.

"It's a great way to get people in the spirit," Gaddy said.

The festival officially gets under way at 1 p.m. at Central Park, with inflatable rides for kids, art exhibits, vendors, food and workshops. People can learn and play chess with Maurice Ashley, the first African-American to earn the coveted title of "grandmaster," and they can meet The Black Cowboys, who are committed to keeping the legacy of America's first black cowboys alive.

Sunday brings an interfaith service and the presentation of the Father of the Year award. Gaddy said a popular component of the day is the chance for people to take the stage to share a few words about their fathers.

Highlights of the Albany event, meanwhile, include an essay and poster contest, a talent show, arts and crafts and information booths and displays.

To Myers, who lives and works in Mississippi, it's all a terrific way to acknowledge the country's history of slavery while at the same time moving forward.

"Juneteenth provides the best opportunity for the nation to bring healing to the legacy of slavery," he said. "It's a time for the nation to come together. I'm just delighted to see it.""

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