Freedom Festival celebrates the Fourth of July

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY, Ga. -- Her accent is British, but her thoughts Sunday were all American.

"I fully love America and its Independence Day," said Dion Montgomery at Sherwood Baptist's Freedom Festival Sunday. "I've brought my whole family out here to celebrate our community."

Montgomery brought her three American-born children to the festival at the church's 82-acre sports park on the 1400 block of Old Pretoria Road to make a day of it.

The free festival ran from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and featured live music, food, horseback rides and probably the most inflatable bouncy amusements assembled in one spot in Southwest Georgia.

"We've set it up in different areas for the community," said Ken Bevel, freedom Festival coordinator. "Like Disneyworld has different attractions, we do too."

Bevel pointed out a fishing pond stocked with catfish, bass and other fish where fathers and sons fished together on the holiday. In another area, named Country U.S.A., children of all ages rode ponies and full-size horses.

"It is all about family and community," Bevel said. "We'd like people to come here and feel the love. It is for everyone who would like to come here."

A lot of people at the festival loved the food, activities and the fireworks. The food choices included barbecue ribs, pork sandwiches, chicken and fried pickles from Lee County's Meatslanger's Bar B Que.

Finger Licken 2 was among the venders with gyros, funnel cake, Polish sausage, turkey legs and other delectables.

Eating an ice cream cone, Brian Nees, said that he came from Valdosta to attend the festival with family.

"It is just fun to eat outside, like in your backyard," Nees said. "I want to see the fireworks too."

It was the fireworks that also attracted another festival participant, 14-year-old Brandon Dawson. Considering that at 9:30 p.m. 874 shells were ready to light the sky with various colors and displays, Dawson had a lot to be attracted to.

"I just love when they explode," Dawson said.

Dawson's grandmother, Maggie Dawson smiled at her grandson's love of the fireworks. There was much more to the day, she said.

"It is just a great way for the community to come together for Independence Day," Maggie Dawson said. "There should be other churches doing this at other times for the community. It is good for the whole community."

Bevel said that he expected that about 15,000 people to attend the festival. They would all be treated to live music at 6:30 p.m. that included some blasts from the past.

"We have songs from (the bands) Chicago, Earth, Wind and Fire and Blood, Sweat and Tears, we are going to do," said Mark Willard, Sherwood's minister of music. "I'm sure people will like it."

While various people talked to at the festival all had good things to say about the feeling of community the event brought out in them, the food and the good times, a 16-year-old reflected on the day's traditional meaning.

"It is all about the Fourth of July and what it means in our country," said Kristina McNutt, of Leesburg. "If they hadn't started the country, we wouldn't be able to live free."