For the second year in a row, Areail, Dollie and Toni Thomas are expecting big crowds at the Plano African American Museum for Juneteenth.

Last year’s Juneteenth Celebration doubled as a grand reopening for the museum, which was shut down for more than a decade before the Thomas sisters worked to revive it back in 2023.

And after a full year in operation, Dollie Thomas says the Juneteenth Celebration will be “bigger and better” than last year.

What’s happening

The Juneteenth festivities will begin with a celebration and parade on June 22. The Parade will start at Haggard Park and finish at the museum, which is located at 900 13th St. in the Douglass Community, a historically Black neighborhood in downtown Plano.

The state champion Plano East boys’ basketball team is set to lead the parade, which will also feature a car show, a procession of horses and other community organizations.

Following the parade, attendees can enjoy live music, horse rides, a bounce house, food trucks and more. Attendees can also explore the exhibits on display, showcasing aspects of African American history in the area.

The museum is also hosting the Plano Urban Music Festival on June 29 in McCall Plaza in downtown Plano, which will feature a variety of local musicians.

The Thomas’s are hoping to welcome people from across the community at the celebration.

“We always say, Juneteenth is about celebrating everybody’s freedom,” Dollie said. “We want everyone in Plano to come together.”

How we got here

The Plano African American Museum was originally started by Ben Thomas in 2006 before it closed in 2011. The museum stayed vacant until Ben Thomas’ daughters worked for months to refurbish the museum and reopen it last year.

Areail, Dollie and Toni, can often be found in rocking chairs on the museum’s front porch. The Thomas sisters are natives of the Douglass community, but none of them have any experience working in a museum.

Areail called the first year of operating a “learning experience.”

“It’s taken a lot of stick-to-itiveness to not give up,” she said.

And it's a passion for what the museum provides that has given the Thomas's that persistence.

“We have a story that needs to be told, and it needs to be told in a way where people will listen and not turn away,” Dollie said. “Even if we get down to $0, each of us is going to have to pick a bill to pay, because we will never close again. It’s just that important. That’s how I feel and that’s how I want everyone to feel about it.”

Toni added that she’s seen a strong response from the community that she’s hoping will grow as the museum continues to establish itself.

“We love this community, we love this city and we’ve been here all our lives,” Toni said. “I think people are slowly starting to trust and appreciate what's going on here.”

Looking ahead

The Thomas sisters have big plans for the museum’s future, including a variety of upgrades to the space.

Toni said they’re hoping to add a wheelchair ramp, fencing, a garden and parking space while continuing to refurbish several other parts of the museum.

There are also plans for an expansion of the museum’s programming to include more events and learning opportunities.

“We want to be on everybody’s lips,” Dollie said. “We want people to say ‘if you’re in Plano, don’t forget to go by the African American Museum.’ We’re going to be the biggest little museum in North Texas.”

The Plano African American Museum is open Tuesday-Saturday from 1 p.m.-6 p.m., and is free to the public. More information on the current exhibit and a link to donate to the museum can be found on its website.

More information on the Juneteenth celebration can be found on the event’s website, along with an application form for prospective sponsors and vendors.