Utahns to celebrate Juneteenth for first time as state holiday

Jun 17, 2022, 1:27 PM | Updated: 1:53 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Juneteenth will take on extra special meaning this year as Utah recognizes it as a state holiday for the first time.

From the Gallivan Center in Salt Lake City to the Ogden City Amphitheatre, there are activities across the state Friday through Monday to celebrate America’s second Independence Day.

“Being a federal and now a state holiday is so important,” said Betty Sawyer with the Ogden Chapter of the NAACP.

For more than three decades, Sawyer lobbied Utah lawmakers to recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday.

“It’s a celebration of freedom which started in Galveston, Texas, in 1865 when those enslaved got word that they had been freed two years before.”

Her efforts paid off this past legislative session.

With backing from Gov. Spencer Cox and Rep. Sandra Hollins, D-Salt Lake City, lawmakers made it official.

“Over the past few years, we have seen a lot of our history, particularly black history come under attack,” said Hollins. “This is one way that we can go about acknowledging our history.”

It’s a historic step that Juneteenth organizers want Utahns to embrace. At the Ogden City Amphitheatre, there will be music, food and fun.

Spring Up with Casey: Celebrating Juneteenth in Utah

“We’re going to have spades tournaments, Bingo, dominoes, corn hole. We’re gonna have all kinds of kids activities,” said Sawyer.

In Salt Lake County, parties will be held in downtown Salt Lake City, at the Real Salt Lake game in Sandy and a health and wellness expo at the Gallivan Center.

“This is a big party so come from the north, the south, the east and the west,” said Sawyer.

Hollins invites everyone to come out and celebrate.

“Take your family. Eat a lot of food and have a lot of fun.”

Click here to see a list of events taking place across the state this weekend.

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Utahns to celebrate Juneteenth for first time as state holiday