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Organizers ‘elated’ at annual Juneteenth event

There was something extra to celebrate this year.
16th annual event.
16th annual event.(WABI)
Updated: Jun. 18, 2021 at 4:26 PM EDT
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BREWER, Maine (WABI) - For almost two decades, Brewer has been the home for an annual Juneteenth celebration.

There was something extra to celebrate this year.

Just after Juneteenth became a federal holiday, there was a sense of vindication in the air.

“I’m elated. I’m excited. I’m happier than I’ve ever been.”

That’s what Maine Human Rights Coalition President James Varner told the gathered crowd Friday.

He says he’s been hosting Juneteenth events for more than 50 years.

This is the 16th year in Brewer’s Freedom Park.

“I can’t put into words how I feel,” said Varner. “We are finally accepted and doing the right thing making this a federal holiday.”

“Everybody should be accepted, and everybody should have a reason to celebrate,” said Michele Labree Daniels, Mayor of Brewer. “Juneteenth is a big reason to celebrate that it’s finally got the recognition that it needs and maybe other people understand how important it really was in 1865.”

After being signed into law by President Biden, Juneteenth becomes the first federal holiday since Martin Luther King Junior Day in 1983. Varner hopes this opens eyes to what transpired in the past and forms a path forward together.

“Now we can begin to unite. Build a connection,” said Varner. “A human connection, a loving connection with what occurred in Washington recently. We are human beings just like you because of your race color creed. We are human beings, and we deserve to be treated in loving ways.”

A spokesperson for Governor Mills’ office says the timing of the bill being signed into law does apply to federal employees immediately.

It will not take effect as an official holiday for state employees until next year.

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