Cooks and vendors were ready for attendees to arrive before the event started. A man played the guitar under an awning, filling 4th Ave Food Park with music. Kids ran around, playing with bubbles by the DJ booth. Their parents watched, smiling.
Food trucks, art vendors and members of the UF Black Student Union gathered at the food park June 19. The annual Juneteenth event brought together about 100 locals.
Virginia Lynn, a 57-year-old business owner and Gainesville resident, started Ginny’s All American as an ice cream truck last year, but her business has expanded since.
Lynn started the food truck because its flexible business model gave her plenty of time to spend with her six kids and three grandchildren, she said.
Her sandwiches, ice cream and shakes are classic American summer staples.
“Everything nowadays is so complicated and so extra,” Lynn said. “I’m a simple person, so I just wanted to do something simple but good.”
Lynn thinks people should be kind to one another, despite any obstacles they face, she said. The single mother and breast cancer survivor is relentlessly positive.
A one-day celebration isn’t sufficient to celebrate Juneteenth, Lynn said. Many people remember the day but don’t carry the knowledge about its significance year-round.
Lynn makes efforts to support small Black-owned businesses by buying from them whenever she can. She understands the struggle of gaining support, and hopes to help other owners, she said.
Lynn has found support from other local business owners, including another food truck owner at the event.
Lynn looked to Drew Durham — the 33-year-old owner of Vegan Kitchen food truck — as a mentor, she said. He gave her advice after starting his own business almost three years ago.
After being guided by experienced business owners himself, he felt it was his duty to help others succeed, Durham said.
From loaning gas money to giving advice on vending practices, Durham does what he can to help other small businesses grow, he said.
Going out of their way to be a friend helped create a web of food truck vendors who feel comfortable relying on one another.
Other vendors at the event also found a sense of community in Gainesville but through a different lens.
Tatiana Saleh, a 25-year-old jewelry maker and owner of HardPressedTati, found her community in the art world.
In a smaller city, supporters show up time and time again, she said. Saleh has made a network of friends through Gainesville’s marketplaces, something she lacked living in larger cities previously, she said.
Saleh and other artists tell one another about upcoming events and keep each other informed about as many opportunities as possible, she said.
In her jewelry, Saleh uses her personal style to create bespoke pieces.
“I’m Black-Hispanic, and growing up in Jacksonville around white people, it’s like my taste is a fusion of the three,” Saleh said.
Saleh’s work is bright and colorful. Some are made of clay while others are beaded. Not every piece is the same aesthetic, but all make for statement jewelry.
“It’s the idea of calling attention to yourself in a room as a Black person is okay. And these earrings are in line with that idea,” Saleh said.
Saleh, Lynn and Durham all share the same ideology: to uplift others in any way they can.
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