Children jump and reach for plush toys shot from a slingshot during the Freedom Festival at Sherwood Baptist Church’s Legacy Park Sunday evening.
ALBANY, Ga. — Faith, fellowship, food and family fun were in abundance Sunday at Sherwood Baptist Church’s Freedom Festival. Blazing temperatures didn’t stop crowds from enjoying a variety of activities for families and children of all ages.
American flags lined the entrance to Legacy Park, serving as a reminder of what Sunday’s celebration recognized — our nation’s freedom. Inside the gates, multiple vendors offered food choices ranging from barbecue to funnel cakes, pork skins for the true southern-at-heart, and of course, snow cones that gave tasters a race to the finish against melting drips.
This year marked the eighth year Sherwood has hosted the Freedom Festival, which serves as an outreach to the community.
“We have three goals for the festival,” said Alex Kendrick, associate pastor of Sherwood Pictures. “We want to be grateful for the country that we live in, share the love of God and remind Albany that we love them.”
Kids enjoyed fun and games including pony and wagon rides, inflatables and a rock wall.
“My daughters love the face-painting booth,” said Keri Phillips, as her children Emree and Kennedy considered flags and butterflies for their faces. “It’s the first place they come to when we get here.”
“This is my first time attending the festival and I’m really enjoying it,” said Anne Hudgins as she sat in the cool shade of the pavilion and waited for her grandchildren to hopefully win her a cake at the cake walk. “I’m so glad to see what Sherwood has done with this property by making it a place for the community.”
“What we want to do with the festival is share the love of Jesus Christ and provide a family-friendly environment for people,” said festival coordinator Ken Bevel. “When families come here, they know they’re in a secure place where they don’t have to constantly worry about their safety, or outside factors like smoking and drinking. They can just come and enjoy spending time with their families.”
Festival staff helped attendees take precaution from the heat, providing water, fans and warnings to stay hydrated. Folks did bring their umbrellas, but not for the rain.
“It’s still hot,” said Dale Hall, as he tried to stay cool under his umbrella. “But we try to come every year.” And those who stayed until the sun went down were rewarded with a drop in temperature and cooler breezes.
Throughout the evening, festivalgoers were treated to live music and entertainment, including skydivers and a “uniform pageant,” which featured military uniforms ranging from the Revolutionary War to today. The event culminated with an American Celebration that featured speaker Jeff Strucker, a member of the unit that participated in Black Hawk Down, and a fireworks show.
A retired captain of the U.S. Marines Corps, Bevel has served several deployments overseas, including Iraq. His experiences have given him a unique perspective on what July 4 represents. “I’ve visited every continent except South America and stood on a lot of different soils,” Bevel said. “I love the freedom that I have here in America — the freedom of religion, speech and the freedom to take my children outside and spend time with them.
“The freedoms we enjoy in America are like nowhere else and I hope we won’t take them for granted. Like our forefathers did before us, I hope we are always willing to fight for them.”