In 1969, Marquetta Mitchell had recently graduated from Strasburg High School and took a Greyhound bus to visit her family in Tennessee between Memorial Day and Independence Day.
She participated in several festivities throughout the town, thinking they were for her visit to her grandparents.
But they were for the celebration of Juneteenth.
“That was my first experience of a Juneteenth celebration,” said Mitchell, who shared her story at the Strasburg Town Council meeting Tuesday night. “I realized it was a time for celebration. It was a celebration of family and friends and community to celebrate something that was just as important as the Fourth of July ... all of the major holidays that we experience.”
Juneteenth, or June 19, commemorates the end of slavery in the United States in 1865. President Abraham Lincoln gave his Emancipation Proclamation speech freeing the slaves in September 1862. But it wasn't until June 19, 1865, that Union Gen. Gordon Granger went into Texas and ordered slaves be freed.
“For the Town of Strasburg to recognize Juneteenth is a good thing,” Mitchell said.
Town Council unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday night to honor Juneteenth. It had already voted to make the day a holiday for town employees this year at the request of Councilwoman Emily Reynolds.
Reynolds had proposed the holiday earlier this year, calling its recognition a monumental shift in the country toward justice that needs to be “marked and held in the hearts and minds of our town." She and Councilman John Massoud also worked together on the resolution, which was read aloud by Mayor Brandy Boies during the meeting.
Members of the Mt. Zion United Methodist Church, including the Rev. Todd Gess, were also in attendance for the meeting, for a separate topic. Gess said he had not known what the day was all about until 2012.
Town employees will have Friday, June 18, off from work, in honor of the holiday for this year only. Boies said she hopes employees will reflect on the meaning of the day during their time off. The council previously discussed permanently changing the town’s holiday policy to include it, but decided to take the matter up at the committee level before any further action.
In other action, the Town Council voted to:
• Allocate the deferred 1% cost of living adjustment salary increase for town employees for a total cost of $40,000. Vice Mayor Ken Cherrix was the lone dissenter.
• Approve a reimbursement resolution that allows the town to use funds it currently has to purchase Rights of Ways for the Borden Mowery Extension project as it awaits for grant reimbursements. Cherrix and Massoud had reservations about approving it after questioning whether the town would actually be reimbursed for the money. Interim Town Manager Jay McKinley said there was no indication reimbursement wouldn’t occur.
• Approve an occupancy agreement between the Strasburg Volunteer Fire Department and the fire station at 163 E. King St.
• Approved a revised tree city ordinance that helps the town achieve a Tree City USA designation. The ordinance does not include suggestions from Massoud to inhibit neighbor disputes, as town attorney stated civil court is for those type of disagreements.