Thousands attend Freedom Festival

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY, Ga. -- On his first visit to one of the most popular family events in the area, one man found it an eye-widening event.

"There's a lot of stuff here to do," said Stephen Wade. "There's things for kids, adults, everybody."

The seventh annual Freedom Festival was presented by Sherwood Baptist Church at Legacy Park, its Old Pretoria Road sports complex Sunday evening. It featured inflatable bouncy amusements, dunk tank baseball pitching, pony rides and a musical extravaganza topped off by a sky-blazing fireworks finale.

"This all started as a cookout with free watermelon for friends and the community when Pastor Michael Catt and I started it," said Stephen Kendrick, a Sherwood associate pastor. "It became a celebration of our freedom in this country and through Christ for the community."

Add music, food and hospitality from the 2,000 church volunteers that work to bring the event together for an expected 15,000 attendees and everyone at the festival agreed it was a celebration for families to enjoy.

Holly Heath, her husband Ben Anderson and their children Daniel, 7, and Robert, 5, like to attend area family attractions such as the RiverQuarium. They also enjoyed celebrating the holiday at the Freedom Festival.

"This is a really good way for families to come together in a safe environment," Heath said. "It also makes us appreciate our country and God."

The festival is held on a Sunday, not the Fourth of July holiday to avoid any competition with other holiday celebrations, said Associate Pastor Ken Bevel, who also served as the event's coordinator.

The event brought out food vendors with funnel cakes, gator on a stick, hot dogs, burgers, sausages and of course barbecue.

"It is events like this that I started out with as a hobby," said Jackie Cape of Meatslangers barbecue in Lee County. "It turned into a business and I really like serving families my barbecue in a Christian family atmosphere."

The atmosphere included a miniature NASCAR pit crew booth where children could remove old tires and put replacements on with cordless wrenches. Watching over Cameron Hill, 11, Shemia Peterson, 10, and Sarah Perry, 10, act as pit crew, Counce Hill said he appreciated Freedom Fest.

"This is the first time I came here," Hill said. "This is good for the community to come out and enjoy. The kids are having fun."

The fun was a big draw for 3-year-old Addison Wade who couldn't wait for her father Stephen to stop talking about the "stuff" there was for everyone to do. She was looking at the bouncy houses.

"I want to go play over there."

Over there, other children bounced, slid and laughed waiting for Addison to join them.