Heat wave doesn’t dampen Juneteenth spirit
Temperatures were already nearing 103 degrees at 1 p.m. on Sunday, June 19, as the celebration began.
FARGO — “It’s hot man; it’s really hot,” said Franklin Ugochukwu as he began displaying his personal art during the Juneteenth celebration.
Temperatures were already nearing 103 degrees at 1 p.m. on Sunday, June 19, as the Juneteenth celebration began. But the heat didn’t stop hundreds of attendees, who ambled between vendors, through tantalizing scents of shrimp gumbo, crawfish cornbread, pulled pork sandwiches and barbecued chicken.
Those who didn’t have ice-cold water were handed a bottle by Juneteenth event volunteers. Water misters kept people cool for a few seconds, and if anyone got too hot, they could duck into North Dakota State University’s Renaissance Hall, said event organizer Fred Edwards.
“Black history is American history. We want people to learn, to love, and to unite. We want to bring the community together,” Edwards said. Edwards worked as an event organizer with the nonprofit organization Fred’s Dissonance, which he began after being hit by a drunk driver in 2018.
The Juneteenth event on Sunday was his seventh time organizing the celebration. As a student he began on a smaller scale years ago at NDSU, he said.
Juneteenth is celebrated across the nation now, and is observed in North Dakota after Gov. Doug Doug Burgum signed legislation in April 2021.
The day commemorates when the Union Army reached the deepest corners of the Confederacy and announced the freedom of all remaining enslaved men and women.
For Ugochukwu, he focused on keeping himself hydrated, and said the festive Juneteenth spirit helped cool down the heat.
“Let the love in the air fill me up,” Ugochukwu said. “To me, this day is about family, it’s about joy, it’s about freedom and it’s about celebration, with a big emphasis on Black joy and not the trauma that is published everywhere.”
Asia Robinson’s forehead beaded with sweat as she played a game called Flap Attack, where the goal was to roll a ball to a specific spot. She rejoiced after several attempts when she won.
When the heat got too much to bear, she said she would move into the shade or find a cool drink.
Triple-digit temperatures during June in eastern North Dakota are not common, according to John Wheeler, chief meteorologist for WDAY. In Fargo, there have been 12 century-high temperatures during seven June months since 1881. Two days in early June last year reached triple digits, but the last time it was 100 degrees in June was in 1995, Wheeler reported.
Tyshawana Jackson stood in line to help children get flavored shaved ice. It was their way of beating the heat during the Juneteenth celebration, as musicians warmed up and a deejay, Anthony Price, who goes by the name of DJ AP, played a mixture of jazzy beats.
Tucked away from the crowd, Christian Beatty labored over a smoker and barbecue grill. As a pitmaster for Big Papa’s Barbeque, Beatty is used to the heat, which can reach up to 300 degrees.
“I just got to muscle through it. The secret is using a wet bandanna and wet towels; those are your best friends,” Beatty said.
On Saturday, June 18, the heat reached 90 degrees, and 30 mph winds made the temperatures less severe during a different Juneteenth celebration. Faith Shields-Dixon said her Juneteenth celebration event went well at the Faith For Hope Community Center on 19th Avenue North, with more than 400 people attending.