Emancipation Days

Arlecia Elkamil performs on the marimba during the 2019 Emancipation Park Days at Ewert Park. Globe file

A celebration that has taken place in Joplin for more than 100 years, the Joplin Park Days Freedom Festival will be back this weekend with a variety of cultural and recreational events.

The community event at Ewert Park is intended to provide education and celebration of African American freedom and achievement and promote cultural diversity and respect for all cultures, according to its organizers.

“This is Joplin’s Emancipation Day Celebration, which is similar to a Juneteenth celebration,” said Chalise Cooper, one of the organizers. The Joplin date for Juneteenth that has been observed is Aug. 4, and the celebration is scheduled each year on a weekend nearest that date, she said.

Communities have celebrated Juneteenth on different dates based on the time when the word came of emancipation.

“Our date is Aug. 4. It just took time for word to travel that the slaves were freed,” Cooper said.

The Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln was issued Jan. 1, 1863, and applied to the states where slaves were being held and used to fight the Civil War as well as maintain homes and plantations so the men could fight against the North. The proclamation was a war measure that Lincoln intended to cripple the rebellion.

Joplin’s observance has been held since at least 1914.

Activities for adults and children are planned Friday through Sunday.

“This year one of the new things is the kids’ market,” Cooper said. “It is like a farmers’ market but for children,” who will be selling baked goods, handmade art and crafts, jewelry, fresh vegetables and other products.

In addition, a drawing contest is being held for kids in sixth through 12th grades. It is being sponsored by the Boys & Girls Club with the theme of “What Freedom Means to me.” Entries have been submitted, and the public will vote to select a winner, to be announced Saturday. The entries are published on the event’s website at www.joplinemancipation.com and its page on Facebook. Also a QR code will be available in the park during the celebration for votes.

A variety of food trucks will be on site to sell food and beverages during the celebration, and a cooling tent with misting fans provided by Missouri Southern State University will be available throughout as well.


7 p.m.: Live gospel music is scheduled with pastor Joshua Bussey and the Community Choir along with the Unity Missionary Baptist Church dance team.

7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.: The kids’ market is open.

9 p.m.: The Joplin Parks and Recreation Department will sponsor a family-friendly showing of “Space Jam 2” on a 30-foot outdoor screen. Popcorn will be served.

9 p.m.: A DJ with music will start with a dance for adults.


10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.: A dominoes tournament is scheduled in the cooling tent.

5 to 7 p.m.: The kids’ market and local resource booths are open.

6 p.m.: The winner of a kids’ art contest will be announced.

7 to 10:30 p.m.: Live music with Omaley Bailey & Funk Factory is planned.


9 to 10 a.m.: The annual Church in the Park community gathering will take place.

Noon to 4 p.m.: The 14th annual car show will be open.

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I am the City Hall reporter but I cover many other stories in our community as well including historic preservation and feature stories about people and places of interest. You can email me at dwoodin@joplinglobe.com or call me at 417-627-7262.