ELKIN — Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, was declared a federal holiday in 2021. For many the phrase was new, but it’s a day that has long been celebrated by Black communities throughout the nation. Juneteenth recognizes the final slaves being freed in the United States on June 19, 1865, in Galveston, Texas, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.
On Saturday Juneteenth was celebrated in style with an array of food trucks, vendors, games for kids, live music and a BBQ cookoff hosted by Bridge of Unity. Bride of Unity, a community organization with members from the Elkin and Jonesville area, formed in 2020 with a mission to “promote positive dialogue that seeks to unite the local community in peace, love, and equity.”
“It brings joy to my heart,” said Bridge of Unity member Clarence Gray of the event. “I’m so excited about the turnout. It makes me proud to be from here.”
Gray said the event had grown from its inaugural event in 2021 and he was thrilled to see all the food trucks, vendors and local charities and churches that were taking part in the celebration.
Gray was also competing in the BBQ cookoff but said he couldn’t divulge his secret recipe. Whatever that secret, it was a good one, as Gray claimed first place in the competition.
Coming in second place was Lyle Sacco who also competed in last year’s event.
“The secret is just doing it old school with oak wood and time,” said Sacco. He and his team set up around 11 p.m. the evening before the competition and got their two pig halves on the cooker around 2 a.m.
“I finish it off with a secret sauce that we make, vinegar based,” he said.
“It’s cool to see it growing more and to see all the variety of people coming out. It’s great that we can all just come together and celebrate the things we have in common. Coming together around food, everybody can come together around food,” Sacco added about the Juneteenth celebration.
Claiming third place in the BBQ cookoff was Brett Welborn who said the secret to his sauce was locally-made kudzu jelly.
Kim Alley, a first time competitor in Elkin, travelled from Charlotte to take part in the event. Alley said her father, a WWII veteran, operated a catering business for much of his career.
“As a child I went to him with all the catering events,” she said. “I was his little shadow.”
Alley’s father Paul Alley passed away in 2015 and she said she wanted to compete in the cook off in his memory. Her array of different sauces were all family recipes handed down to her.
This year’s competition featured five competitors with eight 75-pound pigs served to guests beginning at 3 p.m.
The celebration began at 11 a.m., but Bridge of Unity CEO Sly Best said the afternoon is what things got “electrifying.”
“I’m loving it,” he said of the event early in the afternoon. Things really heated up by late afternoon as tasters began enjoying the BBQ and New Orleans band Retro Punkz took the stage.
“We’re going to show Elkin what it’s like to be in New Orleans,” said Best.
Bridge of Unity President Greg Brewer called it “an amazing day.” On Monday following the celebration he said he was still on a high from all the love that was felt during the event.
“It definitely exemplifies our mission and what we want to do with the organization,” he said. “It just made our hearts feel so good.”
Brewer said they hope the event will continue to grow each year.
“We’re behind nothing but positivity and we hope people see the love and the beautiful atmosphere and that it brings more people out to enjoy it with us,” he said.
Kitsey Burns Harrison may be reached at 336-258-4035 or follow her on Twitter and Instagram @news_shewrote.