ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — June 19 marks the day the last enslaved people in Galveston learned they were free in 1865. To celebrate and serve, Juneteenth became a federal holiday in 2021.

Ahead of the holiday Sunday, celebrations of both education and entertainment will flood Rochester. Here is a list of all things local to do in observation of Juneteenth.

Juneteeth Block Party

City Hall will be hosting its inaugural block party to celebrate the federal holiday outside the main entrance of the building at 11:30 a.m. Monday.

A number of community members and Rochester Mayor Malik Evans are scheduled to speak, followed by a live music performance by local artists.

Food vendors, games, and educational opportunities will also be available. The event is free to the public.

ROC Juneteenth 5K

The sixth annual ROC Juneteenth 5K will be held on Sunday, June 19 at 1:00 p.m. at Genesee Valley Park in Rochester. Organizer Johnson-Hovey described the holiday as essential.

“It is long overdue and it is an incredible celebration of the end of America’s worst atrocity, the end of chattel slavery,” Johnson-Hovey said. Had we celebrated from 1865 until now I think we would probably be in a different place regarding race relations.”

There is both a live and virtual race for this year’s race. Registration is $25 online or $30 on race day, while a virtual appearance costs $10.

Event organizers say the certified 5K course offers runners scenic park views on winding asphalt roads. There will also be light food and refreshments following the race.

Visit the event’s official webpage for more information.

Free admission to Strong Museum

The Strong National Museum of Play will offer free general admission and parking on Saturday, June 18.

Officials say from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on June 18 at the museum, guests can enjoy performances and activities promoting and cultivating the knowledge and appreciation of Black history and culture:

  • Listen to stories—including some about the earliest celebrants of Juneteenth—by the Blackstorytelling League of Rochester at 11 a.m.
  • Be inspired by the Garth Fagan Student Ensemble at noon
  • Meet local writer Nykki Matthews, author of The Truth About Me, at 12:30 p.m.
  • Celebrate with performances of African drums and dance by Womba Africa at 1 p.m.
  • Sing along with Miss Sweet Potato Pie and the Soul Food Babies at 2 p.m.
  • Be inspired by local, Black-owned businesses, such as Hive Creative Works, Boundless Connections, Conkey Cruisers, and Sugary Delights
  • Discover the ways Black history has contributed to the history of play with a special artifact tour

Juneteenth Festival at MLK Park

The City of Rochester’s Juneteenth Celebration at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park will take place Saturday, June 18, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

There will be more than 25 prominent community figures that will perform at the event. Music will be sponsored by the Rochester International Festival.

Organizers say the following attractions will be up for grabs at the festival:

  • A ROC Freedom Riders Bike Ride
  • Libation ceremony and talks about community, elders & the history of Juneteenth
  • Performance from Garth Fagan Dance
  • Speeches from the Urban League of Rochester & many prominent Black businesses and organizations
  • Performance from Jimmie Highsmith, Jr., sponsored by the Rochester International Jazz Festival
  • Community performances, local vendors, and food

Free admission to George Eastman Museum

Officials will be offering free admission to the community in celebration of Juneteenth Sunday.

Community day will take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the holiday at George Eastman Museum. Attendees will have access to the Discovery Room and will also be treated to two free screenings:

Proof of vaccination, photo ID and masks are required to enter the Dryden Theater.

A complete look at whats on offer can be found here: Free Community Day.

Juneteenth at Genesee Country Village & Museum

Take an education trip through the everyday lives of both former enslaved and free Black Americans seeking to reunite with family members scattered across the country.

The celebration event will take place Saturday, June 18, from 10 a.m. 4 p.m.

Organizers say visitors will also have the opportunity to explore historic foods throughout inspired by the recipes of Malinda Russell, the first known Black female published cookbook author.

Tickets for “Honoring Juneteenth” are currently available online at the local attraction’s website. Pricing starts at $18 for adults, $15 for seniors (62+), $15 for students (13-18), $12 for youth (12 and under), and children under 2 are free. Purchased tickets in advance will get the early bird discount.

The national reckoning over race helped set the stage for Juneteenth to become the first new federal holiday since 1983, when Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created.

Supporters of the holiday insist the day should be understood as more than a day off from work. They have worked to make sure Juneteenth celebrators don’t forget why the day exists.


To add more events to this list, please send the information to newsroom@wroctv.com