The annual Juneteenth celebration has been anchored by, and largely attended by, adults since its inception a few years ago.
The North Port St. Joe Project Area Coalition, however, aimed for an event that survived generations and that meant reaching the younger generations.
So they tapped a younger generation.
The Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School Student Government Association was that youth anchor this past June, bringing some new ideas and energy to the celebration.
The result was a new dynamic.
“They embraced the historic elements as well as the family picnic theme,” said Cheryl Steindorf, on the event organizing committee. “I’m extremely proud of them for stepping outside the school halls, opening their minds, and bringing youthful curiosity and enthusiasm to the event.
“I am thankful that we have 30 or more young people in our community who, when asked, can articulate the answer to, ‘What is Juneteenth?’”
Juneteenth commemorates the emancipation of slaves in Texas in 1865 and is widely celebrated in the African-American community, particularly in the South.
“It was something exciting for us,” said SGA president Hannah Fulk. “It was a big event for us.
“We were kids interacting with kids. It was a fun day.”
The high school students, as those younger folks might put it, represented well.
For starters, they got the word out as only those of that generation can, with a steady diet on social media and a campaign to put flyers trumpeting the event on every space made available around the community.
Part of the point of extending an invitation to the SGA, through then-sponsor Sharon Hoffman, was about reaching the youth, bringing youngsters to the event.
And the SGA kids brought particular energy to the day’s festivities at the Washington Gym and outside covered playground.
There were games to be played, with a particularly glee rippling along with a game of water balloons: one doesn’t have to be young of mind to conjure where that took the kids.
Another particular hit was imitation tattoos: by the end of the day few youngsters weren’t sporting at least one, and the balloon animals were also a smash.
And the Cupid shuffle, a dance whose description escaped this reporter, also brought the kids up on their feet.
But there was also a reading tent, cake walk and other outdoor activities.
The SGA students live-streamed much of the activity on Facebook.
Judson Griffies also constructed a “boom box” which based on the description that followed was anything but a typical “boom box.”
“By the end of the night it was a big dance party,” Griffies said.
But it was also something more.
The fun bundled in some lessons and connections.
“It was really eye-opening for me,” said Sedona Focht, noting the history behind the June day. “I got to connect with community members I had never met.”
The event, carried more weight than the typical SGA effort, whether a fundraiser car wash or a “sock hop” fundraiser with the local nursing home, said Bryson Lee.
“There was more history to this than other events we are a part of,” Fulk said. “We really got to bond with the kids in that community.”
And along with the bonding, maybe something more noble.
The goal, after all, was offering something for the benefit of others, expecting nothing in return.
“We were more servants for that than anything,” Griffies said, a sentiment unanimously adopted.
Alas, there were not as many children to turn out as had been hoped, despite the heavy advertising campaign, but the aim was really a foundation, to build for the years to come.
“Hopefully we can build something with our involvement, going back every year,” Fulk said.