MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — At the Minnesota State Capitol, and across the country, people are gathering to celebrate Juneteenth. This year, the holiday has a different feel, and the crowds feel more diverse than in past years.

For some, this is the first time they’re participating in Juneteenth events, with many motivated what’s happened recently in their community.

“All these years that we’ve done this hasn’t got the awareness. I think the awareness is here now,” said Alicia Stansil, who celebrated Juneteenth at a socially-distanced festival at the Cub Foods in North Minneapolis.

Stansil says she’s happy this holiday that she’s celebrated all her life is finally getting national attention.

“I think it’s about time. It’s powerful. Let’s go out here and all support,” Stansil said.

There was also a Juneteenth dance party on the opposite end of town at 38th and Chicago, the George Floyd memorial site.

“I couldn’t think of anywhere else I would be today,” said Noelle Webster, who brought her kids and some of their friends who are experiencing their first Juneteenth celebration. “It’s sad that something like this had to bring awareness to it, but I love that everybody is waking up and figuring out the importance of it.”

“I’d kind of heard about it, but I’ve never been to one and this is my first,” said Graciela Chavez, who came to the Juneteenth celebration with Webster’s daughter.

Juneteenth is still not a federal holiday, but on Friday Gov. Tim Walz signed a proclamation declaring Juneteenth “Freedom Day,” asking for the legislature to make it a state holiday.

“I think it’s just as important and should be as talked about and recognized as the Fourth of July,” Webster said.

The Robertsons came to the memorial site to learn more about the holiday and the history it represents.

“I’m more aware of Juneteenth than I’ve ever been before,” Shiela Robertson said.

“A society needs to confront their past a lot,” John Robertson said.

Seeing the diversity of this crowd gives them hope.

“I really think it’s the beginning of something new happening,” Shiela Robertson said.

St. Paul also hosted a Juneteenth celebration, but it was done virtually over Zoom with Mayor Melvin Carter.

Marielle Mohs