The 147th annual Emancipation Day Celebration is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 18-19 at the Gallia County Fairgrounds. The local observance was instituted in 1863 and for many years was held on Sept. 22 to coincide with the date of Lincoln’s signing of the document that declared slaves to be “thenceforth and forever more free.”
According to members of the local organizing committee, those early celebrations were “conducted in a religious atmosphere” and included a wide range of activities like baseball games, sack races and hog calling. Bands, orators and politicians were also part of the program during the early celebrations.
While the Gallia County Fairgrounds has been home to the Emancipation Day Celebration for many years, other sites like Kerr Station, Vinton Community Park, Bush Park, the Bidwell-Porter area and Gallipolis City Park have also served as host sites for the event.
The celebration has attracted visitors from around the United States and Canada with as many as 2,500 people in attendance during any given weekend.
The annual event features historic re-enactments and period actors portraying key figures in African-American history as well as a variety of music and special speakers.
Two keynote speakers are on the schedule for the 2010 celebration. Theodore Delaney, Ph.D., an associate professor of history at Washington and Lee University in Virginia, will speak on Saturday, Sept. 18. Steven Davis, CEO of Bob Evans Farms in Columbus, will be the keynote speaker on Sunday, Sept. 19.
The traditional Sunday morning worship service will feature Minister Marlin Griffin from Providence Baptist Church in Bidwell.
Other events planned during this year’s celebration include an ethnic art display, ethnic boutique sales, arts, crafts and book sales, historical displays and genealogical exhibits.
Activities will begin at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 18 and at 10 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 19. Afternoon programs will begin at 1:30 p.m. each day.