Annual Juneteenth Festival runs smoothly

TUPELO – Despite a much larger crowd than last year, Saturday’s celebration of the 10th annual Juneteenth Freedom Festival was less problematic for law enforcement.
The trouble at last year’s festival was documented by a four-minute YouTube video that showed a massive park brawl involving dozens of teenagers.
In the video, it took police more than four minutes to respond to and break up the fight, a mistake they made sure would not be repeated this year.
Maj. Anthony Hill said a larger police presence at this year’s festival was a direct effect of last year’s brawl.
“We definitely made some adjustments this year because of what happened last year,” said Hill. “We communicated better with sponsors of the event and business owners to make it better for everyone.”
Hill said the department worked with 92 Jamz, the event’s primary sponsor, to improve safety. The turnout, he said, was the largest he’s seen at a Tupelo Juneteenth festival.
More than 2,000 people packed Ballard Park to watch national rap artist Hurricane Chris perform his hit single, “Halle Berry,” and other songs.
After waiting in 100-degree heat for several hours, the eager crowd finally got what they were waiting for as Hurricane stormed onto the stage and launched into “A Bay Bay,” the song that put him on the map in 2007.
Even though everyone in attendance seemed to enjoy Hurricane’s show, the young women screamed a little bit louder for the boyish looking 20-year-old from Shreveport, La.
After performing three songs over a 15-minute span, Hurricane Chris left the stage and hopped a flight to Atlanta to do another show.
Even though he left before the entertainment started, Mayor-elect Jack Reed Jr. got a chance to speak to the crowd.
“Since this is my first official unofficial public speech as mayor, I’m going to always remember this Juneteeth celebration,” said Reed, who was elected June 2. “This is a celebration for us all and I’m glad to be here with all of you today.”
The concert at Ballark Park was just one-third of the weekend’s Juneteeth celebration. Hundreds attended the Friday night concert of Chicago rapper Twista at the Summit Center. Police said no major incidents were reported from that event.
Saturday night former University of Mississippi track runner Pretty Willie, now a singer from St. Louis, hosted the All White Party at the Link Centre.
Contact Danza Johnson at (662) 678-1583 or danza.johnson@djournal.com

Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal