Rio Rancho to hold Juneteenth celebration Friday


  • Celebration will be Friday at Campus Park at City Center
  • 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
  • Event is free
  • For more information, visit



Rio Rancho author Vaunda Micheaux Nelson says she prefers her subject matter to be “a story under-told.

“There are great stories out there, if you want to seek them out,” Nelson said, terming – as many authors choose to do – her book “a labor of love.”

Vaunda Micheaux Nelson

And so it was with her 48-page 2006 “Juneteenth” children’s book, which she read to nearly 30 adults Monday afternoon at the Broadmoor Senior Center, in advance of Juneteenth, June 19.

Sixteen years ago, though, when “Juneteenth” was published by Millbrook Press, “There weren’t many books (about Juneteenth) out there,” said Nelson, a former children’s librarian in Rio Rancho.

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Major General Gordon Granger issued General’s Orders Number 3 in Galveston to ensure that all enslaved people would be freed.

Although the Emancipation Proclamation had been signed two and a half years earlier by President Abraham Lincoln, Black people were still being held as slaves in Texas.

“For many, their livelihood depended on slavery,” Nelson said.

There was no real hurry for those owning plantations and large ranches to turn their workers loose, even though after the Civil War ended in April 1865, the Union Army was sent out to ensure that all people — in every state — would be free.

“Not everyone believed the announcement,” Nelson said.

But many laughed, cried, prayed and danced.

“Many stayed on plantations because they had nowhere else to go,” she said, and where – if they decided to uproot their families – would they find another place to live and work?

And, despite what’s often seen on the silver screen, not all plantations were glamorous and owned by the wealthy.

“Some lived from harvest to harvest,” Nelson said.

Ultimately, Texas – the last state with slavery — became the first state to name Juneteenth as an official holiday in 1979, and on June 17, 2021, Juneteenth National Independence Day was made a federal holiday.

Following a brief question-and-answer period, Nelson encouraged attendees to celebrate Juneteenth early, sipping on red soda and eating red velvet cake – the red symbolizing bloodshed.

Celebrating Juneteenth in the City of Vision

The City of Rio Rancho and the NAACP Rio Rancho Northwest Mesa Branch will host the City of Vision’s inaugural Juneteenth Freedom Day celebration on Friday from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Campus Park at City Center.
This event is free and will feature food, activities, live music, and a beer garden. There will also be vendor booths and community services booths on hand for event attendees to buy goods and receive information about healthcare and other community and social services.

“I am absolutely delighted that our great city will honor and celebrate this American holiday,” said Rio Rancho City Councilor Karissa Culbreath. “Juneteenth is a wonderful opportunity for the entire community to participate in this celebration of joy and freedom.”
The event is subject to weather, and may be canceled due to such conditions as rain, wind, lightning, or public health orders.

Parking and park seating space are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Blankets, umbrellas, and coolers are permitted. Food vendors will be on-site. No glass, outside alcoholic beverages, or individual grills will be allowed. Live music starts at 5:30 p.m.

Visitors can access City Center via Unser Boulevard/King Boulevard and Paseo del Volcan/Broadmoor Boulevard.
For more information about the event, visit


Vaunda Micheaux Nelson provided an entertaining reading of her 2006 children’s book “Juneteenth” Monday afternoon at the Broadmoor Senior Center. (Gary Herron photos/The Observer)