Donaldsonville Juneteenth Music Festival is celebrating 29 years

DONALDSONVILLE – Donaldsonville residents celebrated Saturday during the city’s 29th annual Juneteenth Music Festival.

Even though the federal holiday always falls on June 19 – commemorating the day in 1865 when the last slaves in Galveston, Texas were informed of their freedom – Louisianans started the celebrations this weekend.

Donaldsonville’s Juneteenth Music Festival was founded in 1995 by then-Mayor Bernard Francis Sr. and his wife Janet. The pair organized a small event, with only a few families in attendance.

Nearly 30 years later, it has become an annual part of Donaldsonville, bringing a diverse group of people to the area each year. The festival is now led by Franciscus’ daughter, Tamiko Garrison, who now carries on her parents’ tradition with her family.

“Here in Donaldsonville it’s a diverse community, we love this area. There’s so much history in Donaldsonville,” Garrison said. “We are the third oldest city, we had the first African American mayor in 1868 in the entire United States.”

This year’s fest featured live music from Angel of Faith, Total Control Band, the Michael Foster Project and more. Organizers say the festival’s focus on music is representative of the history of the city and its residents.

“When you talk about music, Claiborne Williams, one of the best jazz musicians and also a music teacher, lived here in the city of Donaldsonville,” said Mayor Leroy Sullivan.

The festival wouldn’t be complete without dozens of tents selling jambalaya, gumbo and smoked barbecue. Most of the businesses are Black-owned, as the festival has always celebrated African American excellence in Donaldsonville and beyond.

‘It’s a joy to bring people together not just in Donaldsonville, but throughout the state of Louisiana,” Sullivan said. ‘It’s the togetherness.’