Grambling cooks up Juneteenth fun during contest

Pictured at left is first-place finisher Althea Gipson while at right is second- and third-place winner Rita Sims after Wednesday’s 2023 Juneteenth Bake-Off held in the Community Room at Grambling City Hall. (Photos by T. Scott Boatright)

By T. Scott Boatright

Grambling’s 2023 Juneteenth turned tasty on Wednesday as the weeklong celebration’s annual bake-off was held inside the Community Center/City Hall Building.

There were two winners named as Rita Sims won the Homemade Candy Category with her Pecan Pralines while Alethea Gipson won the Cake Category for her “Alethea’s Famous 7-Up Cake.”

“It’s based on a 7-Up Cake, but it has a lot of other special ingredients, too,” Gipson said. “That’s what makes it ‘Alethea’s Famous’ 7-Up Cake. I don’t think anyone makes it quite like I do. I’ve never tasted another one like it.

“This was my first time entering something like this. It was a lot of fun.”

Sims, who also entered the Cake Category with Banana Pudding Cupcakes, said it wouldn’t have felt right if she didn’t win.

“I’ve won seven years straight,” Shaw said. “One year it was with a Lemon Buttermilk Poundcake. And I’ve won several years with the Banana Pudding Cupcakes.”

Overall in all categories, Gipson’s 7-Up Cake took first place, and Sims took second with her Pralines and also claimed third for her Banana Pudding Cupcakes.

Grambling City Councilwoman Cathy Holmes Jiles, the city’s Juneteenth Chairperson, said there were 12 entries overall.

“It was a great day and it’s already been our best Juneteenth Festival since COVID,” Jiles said. 

Jiles said Tuesday’s night’s Thelma S. Williams Conversations Under the Tent event drew a packed house to the Community Room at City Hall.

“It was so good,” Jiles said. “I learned things that even I didn’t know. All of our tables were filled. We have a big crowd. It really was fantastic. It was a great night.

“I’m really pleased with the way everything has gone so far. I’m pleased with the attendance at all of the events so far.”

Those events included a citywide Bible Study Wednesday night at Christ Temple Church last night and will continue today with a Health Fair from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. at City Hall followed by a citywide exercise program starting at 6:30 tonight at City Park.

Grambling’s Junetenth festivities kick into high gear on Friday, beginning with a “Get Out and Fish” event will be held from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. at the Grambling City Park in a pond recently stocked by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries with catfish.

A Fish fry will also be held from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. Friday at the Community Center at a cost of $8 per plate and will be followed by a Watermelon Fest.

The annual Miss Juneteenth Pageant will be held from 7 – 9 p.m. Friday in the Betty Smith Nursing Building on the GSU campus.

Saturday festivities will begin as the Juneteenth Parade rolls through the village with GSU basketball legend and NBA Hall of Famer Willis Reed serving as grand marshal.

Activities to be held from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Saturday  at Grambling City Park will include presentations by essay winners, music, live R&B music performances, vendors, a car show, adults and childrens games and more.

Then from 7 – 10 p.m. Saturday, a wine tasting will be held at the Grambling Community Center.

A Juneteenth Poetry Reading is set for 2 p.m. Sunday at City Hall and will be followed by a Juneteenth Fathers Day Gala from 7 – 11 p.m. in the Black and Gold Room of GSU’s Favrot Student Union.

Grambling’s Juneteenth celebration will wrap up on Monday, the anniversary of the actual Juneteenth founding event in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, with a Family Day that will feature a Youth Scholarship Kickball Game from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. at City Park.

For more information on Grambling’s Juneteenth celebration, go online to