PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Juneteenth celebrations kicked off at Point State Park on Friday, and events will continue for eight more days.

This year’s celebrations are bigger than ever before because Juneteenth is now recognized as a federal holiday. Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery and is also a time to recognize the history of African American culture.

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“There’s a lot of people. I didn’t expect it to be this big, so it’s really nice,” said Artinese Malachi from Pittsburgh.

Friday was the first day of the WPA Freedom Days Fest at Point State Park, which featured live music and food vendors. Vendors are also lined up on Liberty Avenue, which is closed to traffic.

State Representative Ed Gainey, the Democratic nominee for mayor of Pittsburgh, said this year’s Juneteenth events are looking a lot bigger and they are bringing people of all cultures together.\

Watch as KDKA’s Bryant Reed reports:


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“We’re more united than any other time. And right now, this is a demonstration. Juneteenth, the independence of everybody’s freedom is what it’s about, and building off that, bringing culture to the city, diversifying the city, shows that we’re a city for all. So today is a great day and I’m proud to be here,” Rep. Gainey said.

The Freedom Days Festival continues until June 20. There will be African American culture education and speakers. This event gives people the opportunity to share their history and heritage.

“I am just honored and happy that they made it a holiday. It was a holiday here first, and now it’s a national holiday, and I’m extremely excited about that,” said Rick Squires, owner of Uncle Rick’s Smokehouse.

Every June 19 in Pittsburgh, people in the city are hoping the excitement of the Juneteenth holiday will just keep growing.

“I expect it to be bigger every year forward because a lot of people will acknowledge and recognize what it is. I think a lot of people didn’t even really know what it was,” Malachi said.

Freedom Days Festival at Point State Park ends June 20. The Black Music Festival at Point State Park is June 24-27. The Juneteenth Grand Jubilee Parade will be downtown on June 26.

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You can find a full list of events right here on our website at this link.