COLORADO SPRINGS — Juneteenth celebrations are kicking off across southern Colorado.
The federal holiday designation adding to the excitement of the holiday that commemorates the ending of slavery in America.
"This particular holiday has a very strong significance in our country's history and culture," said Tony Exum Jr, National Recording Artist, and Radio Host.
Juneteenth, Emancipation Day, Freedom Day - the historic nature of the name resonates with many, but especially the Black community.
"Treat this like you do the Fourth of July, President's Day, or Columbus Day," said Exum Jr.
This year will be the first time that the Colorado Springs Juneteenth Festival happens over the course of several days. The celebration at America the Beauitul Park will feature live music, food vendors, and an Emancipation Ceremony.
"These celebrations are a lot of fun. It's not just the seriousness of the historic part of it, it's family, it's music, it's food, it's fellowship,"said Exum Jr.
With Juneteen now a federal holiday, community leaders say there's even more to celebrate.
"Now we have a holiday that we can sink our teeth into and can all be a part of, contribute, and celebrate. This is the going to be the thing that galvanizes us," said Exum Jr.
"It's neccessary, it's giving us what we deserve, it's giving us what we didn't have," said Jennifer Smith, Colorado Springs Juneteenth Festival organizer.
She says it's a day that's been overlook in Colorado Springs for 15 years. The federal recognition a chance to bring attention and education to the community.
"People don't know what Juneteenth is, a lot of people think they know but they don't. So today is a day you can hear about it, hear the strength of it," said Smith. "It's a long time coming, and like they say a change is going to come."
While it is a time to rejoice, she says there is still much that needs to happen in the future.
"There's still much work that needs to be done, but this is a start," said Smith.
"Don't get us wrong, we aren't like oh wow Juneteenth is a federal holiday, its not over yet but we're moving forward and that is what I like to see," said Exum Jr.
For more information on the Colorado Springs Juneteenth Festival, visit their website.