Freedom Festival draws thousands to Alton Baker Park for Independence Day weekend

The Eugene Active 20-30 Club’s 70th annual Freedom Festival wrapped up on Monday evening with a fireworks show that boasted over 700 mortars.

The Club worked with the Maude Kerns Art Center, which put on the Art and the Vineyard festival, providing food and entertainment throughout the weekend. The rough count at the end of Monday night tallied 25,000 visitors over the three-day holiday weekend.

Attendees were greeted by live music on a large stage as they entered through the main gate. Hundreds of families sprawled out on the grass in front of the stage.

The Maude Kerns Art Center brought together nearly 100 artists and vendors and a wide range of Oregon wineries to accompany the food and live entertainment.

“We’ve been doing this for 6-7 years,” Ray Walsh, owner of and winemaker at Capitello wineries, said. “It’s a great event, with the collaboration between the wine, the art, the food. And of course it’s kid friendly too.”

There was no shortage of family friendly events to pair with the adult beverages. A “Zany Zoo” was on hand in the kid’s area, along with the Girl Scouts, giving families an opportunity for an Independence Day blowout.

The Art and the Vineyard brought people to Alton Baker Park all weekend, but on Monday evening the fireworks were the most anticipated event of the evening. As the sky grew dark, the crowds started to filter in.

“They aren’t all here for the fireworks,” Nathan Mischel, Freedom Festival chair said. “But the fireworks are a big draw for them.”

This particular show may not be the largest in Lane County—it’s overshadowed by the Eugene Emeralds’ and City of Springfield’s—but it is the largest hand-launched show in the county.

Positioned in a field, hundreds of yards from the art festival, stands three rows of fireworks.

Dug into the ground are rows of three-inch mortar fireworks, stacked two deep and around fifty across. In between the two shoots are boxes of smaller mortars, set off in between larger ones.

A small budget this year kept the Club from a blowout celebration for its 70th anniversary, but keeping with tradition was equally important.

“It’s kind of a thing we put on for the family,” Mischel said. “We enjoy doing it and it’s a tradition for the club.”

All ticket sales from the weekend’s events are going to support the Maude Kerns Arts Center and the sponsorship funds will promote a children’s shopping spree, sponsored by the Eugene Active Club supporting low-income children.



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Max Thornberry

Max Thornberry

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