Emancipation Festival
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About Us

The Emancipation Festival in beautiful Grey, Bruce & Simcoe Counties is the longest continuous running Emancipation Picnic in North America.

The Owen Sound Emancipation Celebration Picnic commemorates the British Commonwealth Emancipation Act of August 1, 1834. Owen Sound and area residents have been celebrating this occasion since 1862 and have incorporated celebrating the United States Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863.

The Emancipation Festival works in tandem with numerous community and cultural organizations to recognize Underground Railroad destination points (Owen Sound being the most Northerly terminus of the UGRR) and individuals descendent from the slaves who traveled its path. The picnic recognizes those who made this journey possible, and individuals interested in appreciating history, family, culture and community are welcome to join in the festivities.


Our Mission

The Emancipation Festival is dedicated to inform and educate, and to recognize and celebrate those who made the Underground Railroad journey possible - from Slavery to Freedom.

Descendants of Blacks who came via the Underground Railroad to settle in freedom, gather at the Emancipation Celebration Picnic every August 1, to reminisce and enjoy a time of fellowship. It is an opportunity to give homage to those who paved the way for our emancipation; to celebrate with family, friends, and community; and to celebrate our integration into the local, regional, and national neighborhood.

It is our mandate to:

  • teach, communicate, and appreciate Black History

  • acknowledge special contributors to the Underground Railroad Movement and the community

  • acknowledge special “community” events such as cultural picnics, reunions, festivals and the arts

  • support community artists, musicians, poets, business professionals, and church functions

  • contribute to enterprises recognizing cultural history, genealogy and community impact

Understanding and appreciating one’s roots will make stronger, wiser, and better individuals prepared to manage life’s obstacles and opportunities. The Emancipation Festival is a key venue for meeting these objectives.