GAINESVILLE, Texas – The broiling sun couldn’t keep people away from B.P. Douglas Park Saturday, as Club Sunday wrapped up its third annual Juneteenth celebration in Gainesville.

The inflatable slide cooled off attendees, who also took horse rides around the park, ate barbecue and watched the dance contest Saturday night to wind down the two-day event.

If it sounds like a family barbecue, that’s because it kinda was.

“Club Sunday actually started off as a family thing. We’d get together on Sundays at my aunt’s house and everyone would come over – friends and family from all over town,” said John Thomas, the group’s president. “One of my other cousins would come by and say, ‘I see y’all got Club Sunday going’ and we’re like, ‘Wow, that’s a good name for it.’”

Thomas and the others did all of necessary paperwork to make Club Sunday a legal nonprofit group and, not long afterward, COVID hit.

The local 2020 Juneteenth celebration was canceled, but Club Sunday wanted to observe the day when a group of Texas slaves learned the Civil War was over, and they were forever free.

They had cancelled the Juneteenth events for the year, Thomas recalled.

“We decided we can still put together some money together as a family and give the community something to do," he said. "We all put in and came up with like $1,500 out of just the family and we pulled it off … the group that had it before us was like, ‘Well, y’all did such a good job, we’re going to turn it over to y’all and let y’all around it from now on, because we’ve grown tired of it.’”

Club Sunday turns out for several events on the local calendar each year, including Depot Days, Muenster rodeo, but Juneteenth is the big one.

Thomas said making Juneteenth a federal holiday has helped to raise awareness both nationally and locally. He sees the annual observance at B.P. Douglas growing steadily over the next several years.

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