Freedom fighters, fire chiefs and fireworks will be the focal points of this year’s Freetown July Festival.
The town’s World War I veterans will be recognized during the opening ceremony at 6 p.m. Friday, past and present fire chiefs from Pershing and Owen-Salt Creek townships will be grand marshals of the parade at 1 p.m. Saturday and the festival will end with a fireworks show at 10 p.m. Saturday.
Food and family-friendly fun also will be served up during the community’s annual patriotic festival.
“I love the way it brings the community together for that weekend, just to have fun and to get together,” said Cheryl Long, vice president of the festival committee.
“We’ve been able to meet so many people, all of our neighbors, and people will come grab a sandwich and come to the stage and watch the entertainment while the kids play at Kids’ Alley and walk the aisles of the car show,” she said. “It’s just real wholesome family fun. I really appreciate that. It’s like stepping back in time for a few minutes.”
The Freetown July Festival started in 1936 and was conducted on the Fourth of July for many years. The festival stopped at one point until being revived 12 years ago by the Pershing Township Volunteer Fire Department.
The festival committee decided to pay tribute to the town’s eight World War I veterans during the opening ceremony because of 2017 being the 100-year anniversary of the United States entering the war.
Every year during the festival, a pictorial display is available for people to view in the fire station. Some of the pictures are of the veterans, and photos of those from World War I will be shown during the ceremony.
“We have that display every year, but it doesn’t really get much focus, and people don’t realize that’s there,” Long said. “The committee really worked hard putting that together several years ago, so we thought we would bring some of those pictures out and focus on those veterans who sacrificed from Freetown.”
Family members of the veterans are being invited to the ceremony, which also will feature music from the Long Family Singers of Freetown and Isaac Kenneth, a singer-songwriter and musician from Seymour, Missouri.
Other activities Friday night include a pedal tractor pull, Kids’ Alley games and activities, music by local Christian contemporary band Driven and open karaoke.
Saturday kicks off with the Pershing fire department’s 5K run/walk at 8 a.m., followed by a tractor drive at 9 a.m., a baby contest at 9:30 a.m., Kids’ Alley open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., line dancing lessons at 11 a.m. and a car show from noon to 4 p.m.
Long said at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Kids’ Alley, children can sign up to compete in a new inflatable obstacle course relay race.
The car show will feature cars, trucks, tractors, motorcycles and other vehicles. The first 40 entries will receive a T-shirt and a dash plaque.
The parade will start at 1 p.m. Long said fire chiefs were chosen as the grand marshals because both townships’ volunteer fire departments have had a couple of generations of family members who have served the Freetown area.
New to this year’s parade is a bike decorating contest. Participants are asked to arrive at Freetown Church of Christ along State Road 135 at 12:30 p.m. for judging in age categories of 5 and under, 6 to 10 and 11 and up to begin at 12:45 p.m. A prize will be given to the best decorated bike.
The children then can ride their bikes in the parade. A parent or guardian must accompany children 10 and under.
A variety of acts will perform on the stage throughout the day, including Country Kickers, Ciara Fisher, Infinity, Long Family Singers and Isaac Kenneth.
There also will be open karaoke an hour before a karaoke contest at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. This year, there is an entry fee for the contest. The categories are 12 and younger ($2), ages 13 to 17 ($5) and 18 and up ($5). Winners in each category will take home half of the proceeds of their division.
Long said there will be limited seating around the stage, so she encourages people to bring lawn chairs.
Both days of the festival, the fire department will sell food, including hamburgers, hot dogs, chili, nachos, homemade desserts and drinks. On Saturday, beginning at 10 a.m., there also will be a fish fry, a hog roast and taco salads.
Freetown July Festival
6 p.m.: Opening ceremony
6:30 p.m.: Pedal tractor pull registration (basketball court)
7 to 9 p.m.: Kids’ Alley games and activities
7 p.m.: Pedal tractor pull
7:30 to 9 p.m.: Driven
9 to 10 p.m.: Open karaoke
8 a.m.: Pershing Township Volunteer Fire Department 5K run/walk (fire station; $25 registration fee; free for 12 and under)
9 a.m.: Psi Iota Xi Beta Mu chapter baby contest registration (stage; birth to 36 months; $5 registrtaion fee per category)
9 a.m.: Tractor drive (ball diamond)
9 a.m. to noon: Car show registration ($10 registration fee)
9:30 a.m.: Baby contest
10 a.m. to 9 p.m.: Kids’ Alley games and activities
11 a.m.: You Can Dance line dancing lessons
11:45 a.m.: Country Kickers
Noon to 4 p.m.: Anything on Wheels Freewheelin’ Car Show
12:30 p.m.: Bike decorating contest for the parade (Freetown Church of Christ)
1 p.m.: Parade
2:30 p.m.: Ciara Fisher
3 p.m.: Infinity
4 p.m.: Auction (fire station)
4 p.m.: Long Family Singers
5 p.m.: Isaac Kenneth
6:30 p.m.: Open karaoke
7 p.m.: Karaoke contest registration ($5 entry fee for ages 13 and up; $2 for ages 12 and under)
7:30 p.m.: Karaoke contest
10 p.m.: Fireworks
Throughout the festival, food will be available for purchase at the fire station. Friday’s menu includes hamburgers, hot dogs, chili, nachos, homemade desserts and drinks. Saturday will feature the same menu along with a fish fry and a hog roast starting at 10 a.m. and taco salads sold by the ladies auxiliary in the cafeteria.