Tourist agency sponsoring Juneteenth speech contest

Apr. 26—FARRELL — A $2,000 Mercer County Tourist Promotion Agency grant aims to motivate youngsters to speak up for Juneteenth celebrations.

The grant was awarded to Farrell schools to host a speech contest for students in three divisions.

"We want the youth coming up to perfect their speaking skills and to reflect on Juneteenth," Peggy Mazyck, the agency's president and chief executive officer, said.

Contestants can deliver historic speeches such as by Martin Luther King Jr., create their own speech to honor someone they respect or who made a difference in their lives, or a speech about the meaning of Juneteenth.

"I'm interested," Zuri Martino-Hawkins, a fifth-grader at Farrell Area Elementary School, said when hearing contest details.

Volunteer "coaches" are being organized to help students with research and their speeches.

Farrell's celebration will be held June 14 and 15. The contest will be June 15 at Stey-Nevant Public Library in Farrell.

"We're here to help students any way we can," said Roland Barksdale-Hall, an author and the library's manager.

Juneteenth is recognized as June 19 — which is a blending of the words "June" and "nineteen." The event is celebrated on the anniversary of June 19, 1865, when U.S. Major Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, with news of the Union's victory and ordered the enforcement of President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation in Texas at the end of the Civil War.

All participants will get $25. First place winners by grade category get $100, second place $75 and third place $50.

Participants must reside in Mercer County or Brookfield.

Speech time limits by grade:

— Grades 4-5: Minimum of 2 minutes, maximum of 4 minutes.

— 6-7: Minimum of 3 minutes, maximum of 5 minutes.

— 8-9: Minimum of 4 minutes, maximum of 6 minutes.

On June 14, VisitMercerCountyPA will hold an Underground Railroad tour from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The bus tour will begin at the center, where guests will be offered two light meals.

The tour will stop at local places of interest, such as the Mercer County Historical Society and the pre-Civil War Liberia settlement for fugitive formerly enslaved people. Friday's festivities continue afterward with live entertainment.

In addition to the speech contest, Saturday features a parade, a special recognition ceremony, live entertainment, including a band and a DJ, food, raffles and craft vendors.