Juneteenth celebration draws large crowd in Poughkeepsie

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Brian Doyle, Sharon Arrington, Yvonne Flowers, Judge Denise Watson, and Cleopatra Jordan-Johnson at Juneteenth 2021.

POUGHKEEPSIE – Saturday’s Juneteenth celebration was a tribute to the legacy of Theo “Tree” Arrington and drew hundreds of people to the Earline Patrice Mansion Square Park for the festivities.

Tree Arrington was the founder of R.E.A.L. Skills Network in Poughkeepsie and provided training to many of the city’s youth and made him an icon in the community.  Earlier on Saturday, a mural of Tree was unveiled at the Family Partnership Center.

“Tree didn’t celebrate pagan holidays,” said his widow, Sharon Arrington.  “Juneteenth was very important to him and he used it as a day to educate the community on the importance of the day.”  This year marked the 7th annual celebration that was started by Mr. Arrington.  His wife noted that the first six were not well attended but this year’s event was a tribute that drew many people.

On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers arrived in Texas to tell the slaves that they had been freed.  The slaves were just hearing the news more than two years after President Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

City Councilmember Yvonne Flowers worked with Mrs. Arrington and the community to bring the celebration to the park, including the graduation ceremony for students that had attended R.E.A.L. Skills training.  “Juneteenth is a time to educate the children about the significance of the day,” said Flowers.  Flowers helped bring more than 40 service organizations to the event to provide information to the community.  Among those were Planned Parenthood, MHA Dutchess Vet2Vet, the Dutchess County Deputy Sheriff’s PBA, and the Medical Reserve Corps of Dutchess County.  “With everything we’ve gone through in the last 17 months, this is a good thing,” proclaimed Flowers.

Dutchess County setup a COVID vaccination site at the Exempt Firemen’s Association across the street from the park to provide vaccinations to those seeking immunization.  City Councilman Chris Petsas, a member of the Exempt’s, said “Our organization is honored to work with the county to provide a vaccination site during a celebration of Tree’s legacy that coincides with Juneteenth.”

Mrs. Arrington was pleased with the turnout, saying “I wish he was here to see it,  I’m very pleased but it’s bittersweet.  He was my best friend, my husband, my lover, my everything,” she said while surveying the people arriving at the park.