Juneteenth celebration returning to Greenfield ‘bigger and better’

By MARY BYRNE

Staff Writer

Published: 06-16-2023 1:20 PM

GREENFIELD — With as many as 38 vendors, a youth parade and the city’s first “Taste of Greenfield” event, the Juneteenth celebration is expected to return this year “bigger and better” than its inaugural version in 2022.

“I wanted to do something this year because of the energy I got from the community last year,” said Mpress Bennu, the Juneteenth event’s organizer. “I wanted to come out bigger and better this year, and show what we can do together as a community.”

Juneteenth, celebrated on June 19, commemorates the day in 1865 when the last enslaved Americans in Texas were emancipated.

Bennu, a Greenfield resident who serves on the Human Rights Commission, said one of her main motivations to organize the event each year is to educate the community. Her No. 1 goal, she added, is to “create events that bring the community together.”

“African Americans definitely contributed to this great city and we are part of this community as much as everybody else,” she said. “This is another means of educating and empowering people.”

The event will take place at Beacon Field from noon to 5 p.m. on Monday, with speakers including Mayor Roxann Wedegartner, Franklin County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jessye Deane, Girls Club of Greenfield Executive Director Steve Rickman, and Greenfield Savings Bank President and CEO Thomas Meshako. There will also be face painting and other activities, in addition to performances and presentations by the Martin Luther King Jr. Charter School of Excellence in Springfield, the Historical Society of Greenfield, magician and balloon twister Ed Popielarczyk, and dance studio StyleFX, among others.

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“It’s going to be a fun-filled day,” Bennu said. “There will be a whole lot of excitement.”

Notably, this year’s celebration will also include a parade, led by Tara Murphy and Ammaya Dance and Drum, according to Bennu. The parade will begin at 11 a.m. at City Hall and continue north on Federal Street, turning right onto Sanderson Street toward Beacon Field.

“We have so many young, talented people in Greenfield, and I wanted to give them the opportunity to showcase who they are,” she said. “It’s going to be so fun.”

The Taste of Greenfield event at Beacon Field, meanwhile, will feature food trucks, the Franklin County Community Meals Program and Stone Soup Cafe.

“I had my eye set on doing something like [Taste of Greenfield],” Bennu said. “I wanted to coordinate it with Juneteenth because of the significance it would have on the community.”

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne.

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