Juneteenth 2023: Friendship Leads to Ocean City’s Largest Celebration Ever


Dan Sinclair and Joshua Baker share fellowship at Ocean City Juneteenth Festival on Saturday, June 17, 2023.

By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media

OCEAN CITYJoshua Baker received a phone call from longtime friend and Ocean City native Dan Sinclair, about wanting to come home for Juneteenth and wanted to know if they could do something together.

Sinclair, now an Atlanta-based entertainer and event organizer with Rock Solid Productions, helped organized what turned out to be Ocean City’s largest Juneteenth celebration ever as people filled the outdoor park at the Eighth Street Recreation Center on Saturday, June 17.

Vendors locally and from around South Jersey lined Haven Street to engage visitors for the festival that lasted late into the afternoon.

Baker is part of the original Ocean City Juneteenth Organization. With fellow Ocean City natives Takiya Wilson and Brittany Battle, they organized Juneteenth celebrations annually. Some of those celebrations were held at the Ocean City High School cafeteria.

Baker said after he and Sinclair talked about collaborating, friend and NJ Assemblyman Antwan McClellan opened doors to get funding from the City of Ocean City. McClellan, a former Ocean City council member, also attended the ceremony and helped the Cape May County NAACP sign onto the event as well.

“He called me up and said he wanted to do something back home,” Baker told Front Runner New Jersey at the event. “I told him about what we do every year with Juneteenth and that’s how we came together. Antwan got us connected with the city and the [Cape May branch] NAACP and everybody just came together. A lot of different people and organizations came on board.”

Other co-sponsors included the Cape May County Chamber of Commerce, Sotheby’s International Realty and Heist Insurance.

Sinclair said he was thrilled to come back to his hometown using many of the skills he’s mastered as an entertainer and organizer to do something special.

“This all started with Josh and what he was already doing here,” Sinclair said. “Since moving to Atlanta, this is what I do on a regular basis, organizing festivals and bringing people together. I’ve seen a lot of faces here today that I haven’t seen in a long time. This has been a great turnout.”

Sinclair said he left Ocean City for college and had been back to the city on and off before moving to Atlanta full-time four years ago.

The day opened with Gospel songs and comments from Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian, mental health expert and educator Kelly Cornish and leaders from the Cape May County NAACP. National touring comedian Brian Isley performed along with music from Atlanta’s Dynasty Smith.

Music and the vendors were a big part of the celebration. Vanessa Rivera, a food vendor and caterer with VV Eats said she ran out of some items by the late afternoon while doing brisk business through the celebration.

Dominique Brooks, with New Jersey Courts, engaged visitors about the services his outreach office provides.

Baker and Sinclair promised that this was only the beginning of growing Ocean City’s Juneteenth celebration to make it one of the best in South Jersey.

“This was a good turnout, but with a little more support and work, we expect to see a lot more faces out here next year.”

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