By Luke Phillips
Freedom Fest Committee Chairman Gene Brister says that although this is the 20th Anniversary of Freedom Fest, which started in 1991, the committee has decided to focus instead on the anniversary of our entire country.
“In these economic times, we felt that it was more important to focus on the nation’s anniversary, and the fact that it’s the 65th Anniversary of the end of World War II, and the real meaning of what the Fourth of July is,” Brister said. “We’re truly blessed to live in this great country.”
The fun will begin at 6 p.m., Sunday, July 4 at the Imperial Valley College campus with the NAF Color Guard’s presentation of the flag, and the singing of the national anthem. The tradition of starting the show with the color guard began at the very first Freedom Fest in 1991 as a way of welcoming troops home from the Gulf War.
“The color guard has always kind of been the center piece of the show,” Brister said. “They’ll be there for the official starting.”
Before the fireworks start, visitors will have the chance to check out a slew of static displays.
New this year, the Desert Cruisers Car Club will be showing off 14 custom cars and will also have plenty of games for the kids. The club will host contests for apple bobbing, watermelon eating, hula hoop, and bubblegum blowing. All of the contests are free to enter and prizes will be provided while supplies last.
The U.S. Border Patrol and U.S. Customs will both be showing vehicles from their off-road fleets including Hummers and other long-travel, off-road vehicles, a part of the show that Brister says children especially enjoy.
“The kids really love it,” he said. “It’s such a popular thing.”
Also taking place before the fireworks show this year will be another new event.
Held separately, but in conjunction with Freedom Fest, the first-ever Music Fest was organized by the Imperial Valley College Foundation as a fundraiser to help raise money for IVC’s community music programs.
The event will be held at the IVC gym and will cost $5. All money raised will go toward funding the Imperial Valley Master Chorale, Community Band, the Imperial Valley Symphony and Valley Jazz, all of which will be performing.
Music Fest will begin at 6 p.m. and will be over in time for the Freedom Fest fireworks show. Tickets are available at Clark Baker Music in El Centro, at The Rock café in Brawley or at the door. Children 12 and under are free.
The fireworks show, provided again this year by San Diego company Fireworks America, will begin at 9:30 p.m.
Brister says that, thanks to the company, this year’s show will have a little something extra. He says Fireworks America donated 15 extra 8-inch shells that will be fired extremely high into the atmosphere and fill the sky with “a lot of colors and special effects.”
“They are such a patriotic company,” Brister said. “They provided these 15 8-inch shells as an expression of respect for the people of the Imperial Valley after the big earthquake and all. It was a gift from them to the Imperial Valley. They are a great company.”
Brister says that Freedom Fest’s ’Iron Man Pyro Crew’ has been working hard to get the display set up and ready for the big night, working all night long to avoid the heat of the day.
“It would just be impractical to have them out there working in the day time,” Brister said. “They couldn’t really do it. They have to do it at night.”
The shells, provided by Fireworks America, will be fired by local resident Romy Medina.
KXO radio will provide professionally choreographed music to go along with the fireworks show on FM 107.5.
The Imperial Valley Tennis Club will be providing free rickshaw rides from the parking lot to the event, but Brister says they won’t be able to provide rides back to the lot because of safety issues.
There is no alcohol and no barbecues allowed at the event, but outside food is not a problem.
“People like to bring picnic baskets, and we don’t have a problem with that,” Brister said. “Bring some lawn chairs, some blankets and a radio tuned to 107.5 FM, and enjoy a family evening.”