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Event-filled weekend pays tribute to Juneteenth, birth of state, Father’s Day, COVID-19

Steven Allen Adams CAPITOL — The State Capitol Building in Charleston.

CHARLESTON — West Virginians and visitors to the state will have plenty to do this weekend as the state pays tribute to the end of slavery, the founding of the state, Father’s Day, and the reduction of COVID-19 cases.

West Virginia state employees will get today and Monday off to commemorate Juneteenth on Saturday and West Virginia Day on Sunday.

President Joe Biden signed a bill Thursday passed by Congress this week making June 19 an official U.S. holiday. Gov. Jim Justice also signed a proclamation declaring Juneteenth a state holiday. The West Virginia Legislature recognized Juneteenth during the 2021 legislative session.

“I’m really proud of our Legislature recognizing the day, and now with the federal government moving as they moved, we will follow suit, so Juneteenth will now be a state holiday in the State of West Virginia,” Justice said. “It’s really good stuff.”

According to the National Registry of Juneteenth Organizations and Supporters, Juneteenth commemorates the official end of slavery after Union Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger announced the end of the Civil War and the emancipation of Black slaves after landing in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865.

Even though President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation freeing all slaves on Jan. 1, 1863, and the Confederate States of America surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse on April 9, 1865, news of the Emancipation Proclamation was kept from Texas slaves — one of the furthest outposts in the Confederacy. Until Union soldiers arrived two months after the surrender, there was no way to enforce it. Granger, upon his arrival in Galveston, issued General Order 3 which notified Texans of the proclamation.

The Herbert Henderson Office of Minority Affairs is hosting a virtual Juneteenth celebration. The event will be livestreamed Saturday at 5 p.m. on the Facebook page for the Herbert Henderson Office and will also air on West Virginia Public Broadcasting at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. Montell Jordan, a popular 90s R and B singer, will be the event’s headliner.

Justice also announced additional information for Sunday’s West Virginia Day celebration and COVID-19 vaccine incentive lottery drawing.

“We’re going to have an incredible celebration,” Justice said. “We’ll have some fun and we’ll have a great celebration of our birthday first and foremost.”

The opening event takes place at 1 p.m. Sunday on the Kanawha River side of the State Capitol Building where the “Lincoln Walks at Midnight” statue is located. Justice will announce the end of the indoor mask mandate for all West Virginians regardless of vaccination status. A vaccination clinic will be on site from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., along with food vendors and other activities.

Justice will also announce the winners of the first round of the vaccine incentive lottery. Prizes include $1 million, two full college scholarships for in-state public institutions, two custom pick-up trucks, five custom rifles and five custom shotguns, five lifetime hunting licenses and five lifetime fishing licenses, and 25 weekend getaways for state parks.

According to Justice, 246,200 eligible West Virginians registered for the first lottery giveaway as of the close of the registration period Wednesday at midnight.

The 1 p.m. ceremony will include a performance by West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s Mountain Stage band. Justice will join Allan McVey, secretary of the Department of Administration, for a special presentation commemorating the completion of renovations on the gold dome of the State Capitol Building with a ceremonial raising of the rotunda’s chandelier.

The event is open to the public. The event will also be livestreamed on the Governor’s YouTube channel and social media accounts, as well as through West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

At 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Justice will join Medal of Honor recipient Hershel “Woody” Williams for a dedication ceremony for the Gold Star Families Memorial Monument on the grounds of the Capitol Complex. At 3 p.m., Justice and first lady Cathy Justice will kick off the return of the annual West Virginia Day cake cutting at the State Culture Center.

“We want you to come on June the 20th,” Justice said. “We hope to see you.”

In other announcements, the vaccine incentive program for fully vaccinated residents between the ages of 16-35 will end at midnight on June 20. The program sends out $100 U.S. savings bonds or $100 pre-paid debit cards to eligible residents.

While the registration for Sunday’s vaccine incentive lottery closed at midnight Wednesday, partially vaccinated residents can still register for future lottery drawings. The final drawing is Aug. 4, with the grand prize being $1.588 million and the runner-up prize being $588,000.

“Continue to register and everything and we’ll be hopeful that everyone walks away with something,” Justice said.

(Adams can be contacted at sadams@newsandsentinel.com)

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