(WMBD) — June 19, or Juneteenth, signifies the day in 1865 when the very last of the slaves in the united states learned they were free. It is also known as Freedom Day or African-American Emancipation Day.

“It’s history. It ties back to history, it ties back to the independence of African-Americans, which was a major part of our culture. So it’s very important they know that, it’s very important we celebrate Juneteenth, just like we would celebrate July Fourth,” said Peoria Public School Board Vice President Gregory Wilson.

William Costley of Pekin is among the men who landed in Galveston, TX on June 19, 1865, for the reading of “The Emancipation Proclamation” to the last of the enslaved people.

“They actively participated in their own freedom,” said Tazewell County Clerk John Ackerman.

Costly and his mother are also notably the first slaves to be emancipated by Abraham Lincoln according to the Pekin Public Library.

Tazewell County is holding its first public observance of Juneteenth Friday night at the Woodrow Cemetery in south Pekin. The ceremony will honor William Costley and the men who participated in the Underground Railroad. State legislators and Congressman Darin LaHood (R-IL) will be in attendance.

“I don’t know if we’ve done enough here in Pekin to really recognize the memory of William Costley and I hope that we do as the years come here start to develop more of a knowledge,” Ackerman said.

Costley is buried in Rochester, MN, in the Rochester State Hospital Cemetery, under the name “William H. Crossley.”

Over in Peoria, This year’s Juneteenth Fest is happening Saturday at John Gwynn Park. Peoria Public Schools is partnering with radio station Strictly Hip Hop 90.7 to teach children about the holiday.

Festivities are geared towards children and community engagement and offer free services as well. The event’s organizer said allyship starts with showing up.

“It really starts June 19th, if you’d like to learn more about the culture, learn more about the leaders in our community,” Wilson said.

Central Illinois has been celebrating all week long, and here is a list of some events you can attend this weekend:

2021 Juneteenth Fest

  • John Gywnn Jr. Park (809 W. John H. Gwynn Jr Ave, Peoria)
  • Saturday, June 19, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Hosted by Strictly Hip Hop 90.7 and Peoria Public Schools
  • Festivities will feature free COVID vaccinations, an opportunity to meet your elected officials, a Manual vs. Central Alumni game, Free Youth Haircuts, Fashion Show, Community Awards, a live DJ, dance performances, community resource and local business vendors, and more.

Freedom Fest Grand Finale CommUNITY Celebration

  • Circle Park (2747 W Krause, Peoria)
  • Saturday, June 19, from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Hosted by the Southside Community Center
  • Featuring Black-owned vendors and booths, color guard, City Council Proclamation and Releasing the Sound of Reconciliation, food, a live DJ, storytelling, and more.

First Public Celebration of Juneteenth in Tazewell County

  • Woodrow Cemetery on Coers Lane in South Pekin
  • Friday, June 18, 4 p.m.
  •  Hosted by the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society, NAACP Peoria Branch, City of Pekin Human Rights Committee, YWCA Pekin’s Coalition for Equality, and Tazewell County Clerk John C. Ackerman
  • Featuring the third in a planned series of Public Recognition Events, speakers from state and community leaders.

Honoring Juneteenth at the Market

  • Downtown Bloomington Farmer’s Market
  • BCAI Cultural Arts and Humanities’ Step Inn Performance Team will be performing at the market at 10:45 a.m. on Jefferson Street.

Virtual Juneteenth

  • Zoom Link
  • Hosted by The Bloomington-Normal Black History Project
  • 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. “Where do we go from here?” Panel discussion
  • 2:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Virtual Showcase and Entertainment sponsored by the McClean County YWCA

Juneteenth Celebration

  • Lincoln County Fairgrounds
  • Saturday, June 19, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Featuring a march starting at Allen Chapel AME Church and ending at the fairgrounds, speakers, Young King and Queen Showcase, and more.