124 years ago, the Mount Bethel Baptist Association purchased a 75-acre parcel of land in King George County for $600.
The Mount Bethel Christian Retreat Center at 17420 Mount Bethel Lane is now one of the largest black-owned waterfront properties on the East Coast.
Organizers of a June 19 celebration in the Fredericksburg area thought Mount Bethel would be an ideal location for a festival next Saturday at noon.
The event, organized by a group of community service organizations in the region, is one of many taking place on Saturday in honor of June 19, National Independence Day, which has been introduced as a public holiday Federal last year.
“It happened because we were looking to do something in the King George area,” said Charita Mariner of #ENOUGH, one of the organizations sponsoring the event. “We serve so many different counties, but we haven’t done much in this community. We wanted to do something about this historic site and really raise awareness of this wonderful property. We’re really excited about it.
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A group of Baptist churches in Washington, Maryland, and Virginia own Mount Bethel.
Mariner said the Juneteenth event will be an opportunity to introduce the property to those unaware that it is available to rent for family reunions, weddings, religious events and other activities.
The property includes a baseball diamond, basketball court and volleyball court.
On Saturday, the Fredericksburg-based Major League Band will perform. There will also be a car and bike show, as well as over 30 vendors and a few food trucks. The King George Fire Department will participate and the County Parks and Recreation Department will facilitate activities for children.
“It’s a black family reunion,” Mariner said. “It’s a big party. There will be other Juneteenth events and we encourage everyone to attend.
The Spotsylvania NAACP will host an event Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon at the John J. Wright Educational and Cultural Center Museum, 7565 Courthouse Road. Thereafter, transportation will be provided to the King George event for all who wish to attend.
Spotsylvania NAACP President Moe Petway said the event won’t be as celebratory as others in the area.
“What we’re doing is acknowledging that Juneteenth exists and happened and we’ll have a short activity here just to commemorate and celebrate,” Petway said. “So if people want to go to King George afterwards, we’ll have a van to take them to that event.”
Also in Spotsylvania, Rho Zeta Sigma will host an event at the Patriot Park Amphitheater from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The fraternity expects between 100 and 150 participants. There will be music, food trucks and local talent on display.
There will also be events in Stafford and Carolina counties on Saturday and one in Fredericksburg on Sunday. The in-town event will take place at the Old Walker–Grant at 200 Gunnery Road from 1-9:30 p.m.
There will be a fashion show, rap battle, flag football, children’s games, gospel music, a DJ and a tribute to deceased loved ones, among other activities. A fireworks display will crown the festivities.
The Stafford NAACP Branch will host an indoor and outdoor event at Colonial Forge High School beginning at 11 a.m. The outdoor program ends at 6 p.m. Both adults and children are encouraged to attend.
The program will include music, dance, drama, spoken word poetry, indoor and outdoor exhibits and activities for all ages. A silent auction will take place inside and vendors and food trucks will be on site.
Admission is free, but guests are encouraged to register through Eventbrite.
The event in Caroline is a two-part celebration. For the first part, there is an afternoon worship service on Sunday, June 12 at Second Baptist Church in Ruther Glen. Guests are encouraged to wear traditional attire.
Part two is scheduled for Saturday from noon until dusk at Caroline Park, 19127 County Park Drive in Milford. There will be a DJ, vendors, food, games, prizes, live music and dance performances.
Caroline County Administrator Charles Culley said the large rally on June 19 in 2021 caught county officials off guard. Culley said safety protocols have been put in place to ensure this year’s event is up to county code.
“I think it’s all settled,” Culley said. “Everyone understands why the county is trying to get involved. They are not regulations. But the health department, fire and rescue, building officer, parks and recreation and public works must be involved to ensure the event goes ahead safely. … We want to make sure the event runs as smoothly as possible. We look forward to a very successful event, good weather and good attendance at the park.