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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — After a one-year hiatus caused by COVID pandemic restrictions, the Juneteenth Festival has once again returned to Memphis.

There’s no admission fee to the open-air event, which features vendors from around the world.

This year’s event is being held in Health Sciences Park, which had been home to the controversial statue atop the grave of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest. The monument was removed in 2017 and the remains of the former slave trader were removed last week.

“All ages, all colors, it’s open to Memphis,” said Telisa Franklin, president of the 28th annual Memphis Juneteenth Festival. “Memphis is not about one race. Memphis is about the human race. So, it’s open to everybody.”

Juneteenth visitors can eat, shop, listen to music and, perhaps most importantly, learn about the history of why June 19, 1865, is recognized as such an important date.

“Just because the Emancipation Proclamation was signed on January 1 of 1863, we wasn’t free until everybody was free. And so, on June 19th, 1865, Galveston, Texas slaves and slave owners heard that all slaves were free,” Franklin said.

The festival also gives this 16-year-old entrepreneur a chance to expand her sense of business and culture.

“I feel very excited, very amazing to be here,” said De’Janey Williams, founder of Hermosa Sisters. “It just feels amazing. Everything’s just so fun and it’s a good positive place.”

And there’s a special excitement as Juneteenth has been officially recognized as a federal holiday.

“For the President of the United States to understand Juneteenth should have been a holiday and he signed it on yesterday, baby, the spirit of jubilation that it happened, and it happened right here at Juneteenth weekend. That’s another reason to celebrate.”

The festival goes until 10 p.m. Friday night and continues Saturday. Officers with the University of Tennessee, Memphis Police and the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office are on hand.