tampabay.com

Patriotic party is back

Freedomfest 2006 marks the return of Fourth festivities in Pinellas Park.

By ROBBYN MITCHELL
Published July 2, 2006


PINELLAS PARK - Local businesses and churches have come together to host a patriotic celebration at Town Square Plaza, the city's first Fourth of July celebration in more than 20 years.

The only catch is that Freedomfest 2006 won't actually be on July 4; it'll be the day before. Monday's event starts at 6 p.m. and will feature Christian recording artists Brett McMullen and NewSong, along with free hot dogs and professional fireworks.

Jon Farris, the event's director, said citizens and businesses had been planning an event to give back to the community since November 2005.

But when the group approached the city in February, they were told the city would love to host the festivities but had no money in the budget.

Tim Caddell, media and public events director for the city, said that Pinellas Park hasn't had a city-sponsored Fourth of July event in more than 20 years.

"We intended to do something but we had so many other things going on throughout the year that it wasn't a possibility to fund a Fourth celebration because it's expensive," Caddell said.

Farris mailed out postcards to more than 600 churches asking for donations. "We have about 100 who are on board now, not to mention the 11 businesses who are sponsoring." They raised more than $75,000, he said.

The outpouring of local support also made it possible to secure NewSong's performance.

"Once they found out it was a community thing they loved it and they were all for it," Farris said. "That's what they're all about - community."

Awareness groups also have joined to educate people while they are entertained. Breast Cancer Awareness is one of the official sponsors.

"The city is going to allow us to make the July 3 event annual and try to make it an all-day festival on July 4 next year," Farris said.

The success of this year's event will determine the future of Independence Day for Pinellas Park.

"We haven't made any plans for next year yet," Caddell said. "But if this event is a success we will certainly support it."