Each year, Russellville marks the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, the documents which freed the slaves, by holding a three-day 8th of August Celebration.
“It’s like a homecoming,” said Paulette Smith, one of the organizers of the event. “It’s a great celebration.”
In the midst of the music, fun and games and food, the message remains and Smith said everyone knows the reason behind the celebration.
“We know the meaning of the proclamation,” Smith said. Some parts of the event focus on the history behind it.
The 8th of August Celebration got underway Thursday evening with the opening ceremony – a gospel service depicting the slave ritual of meeting at the church. Guest speaker Rev. Colby Barnett gave a message and the Mt. Zion Brotherhood Chorus sang. The event always opens with a church service.
The festivities get underway Friday with the Soul Food Fest on Fifth and Morgan Streets beginning at around noon and lasting until the evening. There will also be booths and vendors set up Friday and Saturday.
Concerned Citizens sponsors the Soul Food Fest and also the Block Party Saturday. During the Block Party there will be a DJ set up in the street.
Dorris Vick of Concerned Citizens said this is a great family event and there will be plenty of security out that evening.
Also on Friday, there will be a Rap Freestyle Contest at 5:30 p.m. at Hampton Park. The Men’s Softball Tournament may begin Friday, but will definitely be on for Saturday.
Also on Friday, the Russellville Blues Society will sponsor a jazz concert at 7 pm. and the Over-the-Hill Club will have a dance at 9 p.m. at the National Guard Armory.
The celebration gets started early Saturday morning with the Golf Scramble at Rolling Hills Golf Course at 6 a.m.
Events will start at 8 a.m. at Hampton Park and will include the Mens’ Softball, Men’s Dustbowl Basketball and the Horseshoe Tournament.
The annual Flag Ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. There will be inflatables for the children as well as other games, concessions and vendors.
On Saturday at about 4:30 p.m., there will be a concert at the park featuring three up-and-coming groups from Louisville and Nashville. They will perform some hit songs and some new music that will soon be released.
Smith said the local 8th of August Celebration is very unique and something that not a lot of cities have. This is the 23rd year for the event and it just keeps growing.
“It’s a reunion,” Smith said. Those who grew up here but have moved away return each year for the 8th of August.
“It’s hard to get rooms around here at this time of year,” Smith said. “This area has got a lot of families and this time of the year they just know it’s time to come home.”