The 13th annual Emancipation Day for Neosho will be held Saturday at Neosho’s Scenic Drive Park, located on the north side of Neosho.

According to Lionel Smiles, co-chairperson of the event, the celebration marks the day that President Abraham Lincoln signed into law the Emancipation Proclamation freeing the slaves in the Southern states on Jan. 1, 1863.

“It is just a jubilation, it goes back when they were actually freed slaves back in 1865 – actually 1863 – but it took two and a half years for word to get back to our area,” said Smiles. “It was just a way of showing that they were so jubilant, and that they were so happy that we celebrate this time every year at about the time that the word got back to this area.”

The event starts around 10 a.m. and goes all day with various activities. It is free and open to the public.

Exhibits from the Neosho National Fish Hatchery and George Washington Carver National Monument will be in the park. At 5 p.m., EagleMed helicopter will land to let the visitors see inside the aircraft and ask questions to the flight crew.

“At 6 p.m., we will have a tree planting ceremony,” he said. “We will plant three trees.”

Smiles said the tree ceremony will be in honor of those lives who where cut short, but not forgotten.

“We actually did it (tree planting ceremony) in the very beginning,” said Smiles. “Then we didn’t do it any longer because we didn’t want to forget someone. Last year, was a really tough time for my family and a lot of families here in Neosho, we lost a lot of people.”

This year’s three trees will be planted in honor of Nelson Price, Terry Clark and Janice Blanchard.

There will also be a dunk tank, a remote control cars race and bingo.
Food will also be served.

“We will have hot dogs, hamburgers, pork, and grilled corn,” he said. “Also, potato salad and baked beans. We will also have strawberry soda, which is something that was dated back in the days.”

Depending on the weather, the attendance has been up and down over the years.

Smiles does hope that the event will continue.

“Even though we are going to continue and keep pressing on, that [future generations] understand this is something that they can do for their heritage, something that they can do for their cultural awareness,” he said. “We want to definitely strive to keep that going on.”

As stated, the event is open to the public.

“Come out and enjoy the day,” he added.

For more information, call Ida Mae Smiles at 592-8225.

Fireworks will conclude the evening.