This article has been updated.

With San Antonians celebrating with events across the city this weekend, City Hall and most municipal offices will close Friday to mark the first official Juneteenth city holiday.

It could also soon become a federal holiday, following actions from Congress this week. The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday to mark June 19 a national holiday. The measure is expected to pass the House Wednesday and be signed into law by President Joe Biden soon after.

Juneteenth commemorates the date Union soldiers arrived in Galveston to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation, which President Abraham Lincoln had signed into law almost two and a half years earlier. According to the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation, Texas was the last state, after the end of the Civil War, to allow enslavement.

On June 19, 1865, Union troops, led by General Gordon Granger, arrived in Galveston. Granger issued General Order #3, which informed the people of Texas that all enslaved people were now free.

Juneteenth has been a state holiday since 1980. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, introduced federal legislation last spring at the height of racial tension in the country following the murder of George Floyd, but the bill did not get the support needed to pass. 

Local advocates, artists, and groups will be celebrating at a number of events. The largest will be the 2021 Texas Freedom Festival, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Comanche Park No. 2, 2600 Rigsby Ave.

The free festival is in its 25th year, said Byron Miller, Juneteenth San Antonio commissioner. Miller said while the two-day festival will have all sorts of entertainment and food, it serves as a fun way to share information about the holiday with San Antonio residents.

“Our festival is a festival of information. It’s a celebration of black culture, legacy, tradition, and influence,” Miller said.

Apart from live music, basketball games, and domino and kickball tournaments, the festival will include poetry readings and an open mic for speakers to touch on the importance of the holiday. Proceeds from the event will go to the Miller Child Development Center, an early childhood educational center that aims to prepare children for school.

San Antonio’s Juneteenth Block Party/Fair will also be a larger event, and will include art, food trucks, vendors, live music, speakers, a kid’s play area, and a photo booth. This event, hosted by the Dream Big Scholarship Fund, will be on Saturday from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Alamo Beer Company, located at 202 Lamar St. The Party/Fair is being sponsored by H-E-B and the University Health System, along with others. The event is free, but tickets are limited. To reserve a ticket, visit here.

Local advocacy groups FixSAPD and Black Freedom Factory have partnered to host The Future is Freedom 6:30-10 p.m. Thursday at the new interactive art space Hopscotch. The event will have food, live music, art, and vendor booths. Tickets are required and can be purchased here.

The Art of Four will host its first Juneteenth event from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday at Legacy Park. The “multi-sensory and educational” event will include live musical performances, food, and art that all aim to celebrate San Antonio’s Black artists, musicians, and institutions. Tickets can be reserved here

In honor of the holiday, the Witte Museum will present “Ode to Juneteenth” on Saturday at 11:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. in the Memorial Auditorium. The play, written by Eugene Lee, first debuted in 2018 and follows Emancipation Jones, who takes the audience on a journey of how the holiday came to be and how it is celebrated locally.

The city adopted the Juneteenth holiday as part of its fiscal year 2021 budget, according to a press release. It noted the following city services and offices will be closed Friday:

  • SAPD’s administration and records section
  • SAFD administrative offices
  • San Antonio Municipal Court
  • All Metro Health clinics, including WIC clinics and Lactation Support Center
  • All senior/adult comprehensive centers and senior nutrition sites
  • Willie Velasquez, Frank Garrett, and Claude Black community centers
  • Child Care Services administrative offices
  • Head Start administrative offices and school district sites
  • Pre-K 4 SA schools, CEO, and corporate office
  • Dead animal collection crews will be off duty
  • The Darner Headquarters and Park Reservations Office
  • Office of the city clerk
  • Municipal Archives and Records Facility
  • Alamodome offices and box office
  • Central Library and all branch libraries (closed Saturday, too)
  • Development Services Department
  • Office of Historic Preservation
  • Planning Department
  • The Carver Community Cultural Center
  • La Villita and Market Square administrative offices
  • City of San Antonio community centers, adult, and senior centers, the San Antonio Natatorium, McFarlin and Fairchild tennis centers, and Barrera Community Fitness Center
  • Ron Darner Park headquarters and reservations office
  • Summer Youth Program at community centers and school sites
  • Solid Waste administrative office

The following city services and offices will still be available Friday:

  • Police
  • San Antonio Police Department’s detention center and the Magistrate Court
  • Fire and EMS
  • 311 call center, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Animal Care Services
  • Code Enforcement officers (for inspections and emergency coverage)
  • La Villita shops
  • Market Square
  • Spanish Governor’s Palace
  • Pre-K 4 SA enrollment hotline
  • Alamodome COVID-19 vaccine clinic, noon to 4 p.m.
  • City COVID-19 testing sites
  • City parks, trails, and select outdoor pools
  • Select Fitness in the Park classes
  • Recycling, organics recycling, and garbage  
  • Bitters and Nelson Gardens brush recycling
  • Bulky waste collection centers and household hazardous waste sites (Frio City Road, Rigsby, and Culebra)
  • Solid Waste Management Department customer service, 7:45 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.

Friday also will be an on-street parking meter holiday.

Lindsey Carnett

Lindsey Carnett is the general assignment reporter for the San Antonio Report.