Next week, Russellville will hold its 26th annual Emancipation Celebration, beginning on Thursday, Aug. 9 and going through Sunday, Aug. 12.
The annual remembrance celebration for African-Americans gaining their freedom from slavery goes back much longer than just 23 years in our community though.
The event, which is more commonly called simply “the 8th of August” has been celebrated throughout western Kentucky for over 140 years.
“We don’t really know where the date of the 8th of August came from,” local historian Michael Morrow said. “That’s just when it’s always been. I can remember when I was a kid, it was always celebrated on the eighth. Black people would not go to work on the eighth, but now we do it the weekend.”
Since starting up in Russellville in the 1980s after originating in Allensville, the festival has grown just about every year.
“The crowd is just getting bigger and better,” said Paulette Smith, one of the organizers for this year’s festivities.
The basketball and softball tournaments are always one of the highlights of the festival and Smith said they were expecting so many this year that they may have to start on Friday evening.
“I don’t know if we’ll do that or not though, because everyone likes playing them on Saturday,” Smith said.
The theme for this year’s festival is “One Moment In Time,” a song by Whitney Houston, which will also serve as a tribute to her legacy.
The opening ceremony will be held in a gospel service depicting the slave ritual of “meeting at the church” on Thursday, Aug. 7 at p.m. at Mt. Zion Baptist Church on South Morgan Street where Rev. Fred D. Fort is the pastor. Rev. Devin West will be the master of ceremony for the event and will also conduct his Logan County Community Choir in the song service for the opening ceremony.
The service will begin with a spiritual message brought outside the church by guest speaker Rev. Jeremy Meriweather, pastor of Gracey Baptist Church.
“We invite all churches in the Logan County community to set up fellowship booths to communicate with the public,” Smith said. “You are welcome to sell or give away concessions or church literature of your choice. We ask all to join us for this inspirational service and come with a praying heart that our heavenly Father will bless this entire occasion with peace, love and unity.”
Friday’s festivities will start with a new addition of a “Taste of Culture Festival” in the parking lot and inside Kathy’s Hair Salon at the corner of West 9th and Nashville streets starting at 8 a.m.. Then the annual “Soul Food Fest” on 5th and Morgan streets will be held in the afternoon. The Russellville Blues Festival will have a concert at 7 p.m. at the corner of 6th and Morgan streets.
On Saturday morning, the annual golf scramble will be held at Rolling Hills Golf Course beginning at 7 a.m. Basketball and softball tournament games will start at 8 a.m. at Hampton Park and the opening ceremony will be held at 10 a.m.
In addition to vendors and concessions, there will be a free music concert in the open field opposite the basketball court starting at 5 p.m. Bring your lounge chairs and enjoy three hours of R&B music.
Family reunions are welcome to come and hang out in the park.