Anchorage Juneteenth festivities kick off this weekend

a choir performs onstage, outside
A choir performs on June 18, 2023 as part of the Anchorage Juneteenth celebration. (Courtesy of Jasmin Smith)

Anchorage will hold its second annual Juneteenth celebration this weekend. 

The two-day event kicks off on the Park Strip at noon Saturday with a Freedom Car Parade.

“We then move into our dignitaries, speakers, our pageant for the kids,” said Jasmin Smith, organizer of the festivities. “Of course, lots of entertainment on Saturday. And then Sunday, we’re having our citywide Juneteenth choir perform.”

Juneteenth is recognized as the oldest African American holiday in the United States, and marks the anniversary of when the last American slaves were freed in Texas on June 19, 1865. 

President Joe Biden made June 19 a federal holiday in 2021, and this year, the Alaska Legislature passed a bill from Sen. Elvi Gray-Jackson and Rep. Stanley Wright that would establish Juneteenth as a state holiday. It was submitted to the governor on Thursday.

Smith said that during the city’s inaugural Juneteenth celebration last year, she’d often encounter people who’d never heard of the holiday. This year, she said, she’s getting more inquiries about what the holiday means. 

“We’re getting a lot more phone calls like, ‘My employer said this about Juneteenth. Is that correct?’ or ‘How do I explain why we’re getting the 19th off?’” Smith said. “So that lets me know the reach is expanding.”

While Smith said she’s looking forward to all of the events, she’s most excited about seeing children experience Juneteenth.

“Just in my own journey taking over Juneteenth and helping plan that, I had to be mentored by our elders and I had to be mentored by people who did it before me,” Smith said. “So having them be there early, making those core memories of their Juneteenth experience like we had is really special to me.”

A full list of activities for this year’s celebration is available here. 

The celebration is in the lead up to the official holiday, on Wednesday, June 19.

a portrait of a man outside

Wesley Early covers Anchorage life and city politics for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at and follow him on X at @wesley_early. Read more about Wesley here.

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