Killeen Juneteenth events — which celebrate the abolishment of slavery in Texas — kicked off Thursday night with a pageant and continue tonight and Saturday with a parade and more.

The annual Billy Sneed Parade — named after a cowboy who furnishes horses for the parade and is an NAACP member — will be held in downtown Killeen, starting at 6 p.m. in front of City Hall, 101 N. College St.

On Thursday night, Amira Lambertis and Makayla A. Jackson competed in the 11th annual Miss Juneteenth queen pageant 2018 at the Killeen arts and activity center.

Juneteenth commemorates when Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger brought word to Texas that slavery ended on June 19, 1865 — more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.

Local Juneteenth events in Killeen continue at 10 a.m. today with a worship service at the Killeen Community Center, 2201 E. Veterans Memorial Blvd., followed by a picnic from noon to 3 p.m. at the center.

The picnic’s menu will feature brisket, hamburgers, hot dogs, hot links, pasta, baked beans, watermelon and desserts.

This weekend is the 29th celebration hosted by NCAAP Killeen branch. The organization added the pageant in 2008. DJ Enterprises, Freddy Jamerson, Veterans of Foreign Wars 9191, Gloria Pierson, and Central Texas Past Potentate Council of Nubia Temple sponsored the 2018 pageant.

“It is an important event for a community like ours that is so diverse. We love each others cultures,” said Killeen Mayor Jose L. Segarra.

Pageant details

Lambertis is a Killeen High School graduate who is attending Texas A&M University. Jackson graduated from Shoemaker High School. She is going to Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. Both contestants are studying medicine.

Kerry Frazier, Ortha Gray and Quinlaine Cisco judged the 2018 contestant on poise and charm, talent and an intellectual category. The young women wore business attire for poise and charm. The talent category featured a violinist and dancer. Both wore evening gowns for the intellectual category. The masters of ceremony, Daryl L. Frazier and pastor Tassha Faison, gave the audience brief summaries on the contestants for each category. It was the first time the competition had two MCs.

Roosevelt Huggins, a Juneteenth coordinator, gave both contestants an opportunity to answer questions for the judges. Lambertis talked about social media’s negative impression on youth and relationships. Jackson discussed the influence violent television and movies have on the youth.

The pageant also showcased special performances from local singers and dance groups. In Him We Move, a mime ministry, choreographed a routine to “Glory,” a song by John Legend and Common.

Cory Fells, 14, sung “Rise up” by Andrea Day.

Junior Archangels and Archangels danced to “Rise” by Jokia and “Holy Fire” by Josiah Bell. Both groups represented In His Presence Dance Academy Worship Arts Institute, a religious dance studio in Killeen.

“This has been a great evening. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. All the different performances were great,” Higgins said. “They brought something out. I wanted to dance.”

The City of Copperas Cove Five Hills ambassadors attended the pageant. Faison invited the queens to the stage. Each queen introduced themselves and their platform of service. Miss Juneteenth 2016 Kayla McCall appreciated their support and work in the community. McCall presented her title and sash to Miss Juneteenth 2018 Makayla A. Jackson, who received a tiara, flowers and a one-year membership to NCAAP.

“This is a learning experience for any young lady that wants to come out and be a part of this pageant,” said pageant coordinator Gladys Peterson. “You can be a queen. You’re automatically a princess”

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