Tuesday, January 14th, 2020
Celina Freedom Days Canceled
Organizers to end celebration known for fireworks
By William Kincaid
CELINA - Organizers agreed to end the patriotic-themed Freedom Days celebration, a three-day festival that had been held annually since 2004 in conjunction with the Fourth of July holiday at Celina's Lakeshore Park.
Representatives from the organizing clubs - Celina's American Legion, Eagles, Moose and VFW - gathered last month and decided to discontinue the event due to rising expenses, diminished donations and declining interest, festival chairman Bob Howell told the newspaper.
It cost about $100,000 to stage the festival each year, he added, noting the cost had been covered by contributions from the four clubs and donations.
"It's not a cheap proposition," he added.
A large part of the festival's mission was to provide free family entertainment, and organizers didn't want to start charging attendees, Howell said.
The Independence Day event celebrated living and deceased members of the military. It typically boasted a strong lineup of musical acts, including national recording artists Lee Greenwood, best known for his hit "God Bless The USA," country star Aaron Tippin and Detroit-based R&B act Rare Earth.
The 2019 edition featured Nashville-based songwriter Wendell Mobley, who delivered a homecoming performance; the festival's celebrated grand fireworks show; mechanical and inflatable rides; a motorcycle poker run; a veterans salute; kids' fishing derby; volleyball and cornhole tournaments; roving clowns; and pontoon, pony and trolley rides.
Over the years, festival organizers donated tens of thousands of dollars to the community.
"It's just like anything else. It became commonplace, and people kind of lose interest," Howell said, pointing out more Fourth of July-based activities and events have cropped up since Freedom Days began.
Celina Mayor Jeff Hazel said Freedom Days enjoyed a tremendous run. The four service clubs coming together to put on the event each year underscored the power of community, Hazel added.
In addition to heaping praise on organizers for the time and energy they spent each year, he lauded them for offering free family entertainment, a gesture that turned out scores of local people and attracted many from out of the area each summer. Hazel recalled seeing veterans of all ages come out for Freedom Days.
"I think it was really important for them to get together to celebrate the freedom," he said. "It was a celebration of the freedoms that many fought and died for."