A last-minute challenge shut down this year’s Emancipation Proclamation Celebration Festival that had been scheduled for the old Union Grove High School site on Saturday, May 18, and organizers of the event say they regret the inconvenience it caused those who had planned to participate as vendors or guests.

About an hour before it was to get underway, with a Jackson County Sheriff’s Office deputy assigned at the request of the organizers, the JCSO got a call from an individual protesting it’s being held without her authorization, asserting that she has legal control of the property, according to Sheriff Lou Roberts.

Unable to find court records that could prove otherwise, Roberts said he and his team nevertheless worked with the parties in an attempt to resolve the civil matter to the extent that the event could go on as planned, but was unable to do so.

With the conflict unresolved, he said, a representative of the event’s organizational team volunteered to move it to another location but ultimately it was called off because of the difficulty in doing so on such short notice.

Organizers say the incident caused many vendors and guests inconvenienced and bewildered. It had been set to kick off at 10 a.m. that day.

“This was a golden opportunity for many people of Northwest Florida to get out and enjoy with their neighbors and friends after six months of dealing with Hurricane Michael,” said Leo Sims, one of the event supporters, in a press release about the unexpected turn of events.

Vendors had to stop their set up and reload as visitors were arriving to take advantage of the activities and food that had been on tap.

“The officers and members of Union Grove Alumni Association (UGAA) are working to overcome this unfortunate incident, and looking forward to another opportunity for an event of this type,” Sims continued. “UGAA would like to thank Byron Dickens, our youth director and his committee for a job well done. UGAA also says thanks to each and every one for the part you played. The association apologizes for the inconvenience. Again, thanks to everyone involved for your patience and understanding.”

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