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CT 07/09/19 - Saturday night, the Freedom Festival wrapped up with a 20-minute fireworks' display. The Freedom Festival ran from 5-10 p.m. and featured live entertainment, inflatable games, food vendors, and culminated with the annual fireworks show.




The 2018 Freedom Festival in Chillicothe will be held Saturday, July 7, beginning at 5 p.m. in Simpson Park to cap off the day-long events planned for Missouri Sliced Bread Day. Scott Rule, Freedom Festival Committee Chairman, has been so pleased with the support given to ensure the community fireworks and this festival continue, "After a brief break last year to deal with some health issues, I'm back at the helm for this year's festival and thanks to the recent effort to declare July 7th Missouri Sliced Bread Day in the Missouri Congress, we are making this year bigger and better with so much to do and choose from that day. We have been amazed with the cooperation and support we've received throughout the Chillicothe area from all those involved to make sure this important day becomes a true event."

PHOTO: Butch Shaffer 07/07/18

The Freedom Festival committee has been soliciting donations to fund the fireworks show, festival entertainment, insurance, and other expenses. Many previous donors contributed and new donors also stepped forward. Funds raised through donations from over 60 area businesses, individuals and organizations have made this event possible. Rule wanted to be sure to tell them all, thanks! "We could not have done this without their support."

The program planned for prior to the fireworks will be held in front of Chilli Bay Water Park. The festival will be using the new Chamber of Commerce stage supplied by the Chillicothe Rotary Club. The Festival entertainment will include music provided by Hired Gun as well as bounce house equipment provided by Rare Air Bounce House Company. There will be several food vendors and so much more, including T-shirts and give-aways. The Saturday night fireworks will end a day of events that include the YMCA 5K Color Fest Run, the downtown Farmer's Market, a parade, Historic Preservation Seminars at the library, an Antique Flea Market and a Bread-Baking Contest at the museum, a Mudcat's game, and the Sliced Bread Jam Bluegrass Festival at the Gary Dickinson Performing Arts Center. The Freedom Festival portion of the day will start around 5 p.m. with food and fun, then end just after dark with the largest fireworks display in North Central Missouri.



07/03/17 C-T - Fireworks illuminate the night sky during the 2017 Freedom Fest and Fireworks Show at Simpson Park Saturday evening, July 1. J&I Fireworks of Kansas City presented the spectacular 21-minute show. Prior to the fireworks show, Point of No Return provided music, and then the Chillicothe Swarm Cheerleaders and the Swarm Youth Cheerleaders performed, followed by the Dustin Thomas Band. C-T Photo / Butch Shaffer

Grillin' and Chillin
Pros, backyard grill masters go hog wild in BBQ contest
With names such as Awesome Racks Cooking Crew, Smokin' Butts BBQ, 2B Smokin', All Sauced Up BBQ, Cutthroat Que, Double Sauced, and more, grill masters from Chillicothe as well as states throughout the Midwest arrived at Simpson Park Friday evening for Chillin' and Grillin', a Kansas City Barbeque Society-sanctioned competition. Thirty teams entered in the experienced division and six in the amateur "Backyard" competition. The Kansas City Barbeque Society is the nation's leading barbecue-sanctioning body. This was the first year for Chillicothe to host a barbecue contest of this caliber. Carl McBee, one of the coordinators of the local event, has entered barbecue competitions before and has served as a KCBS judge. He thought Chillicothe would be a great venue for a barbecue competition. "Originally, we hoped to get maybe 15 teams and, hopefully, break even the first year and give the people of the Chillicothe area something new and exciting to come out to and experience," McBee said.

This weekend's event, however, far exceeded that goal. "We doubled our expectations and then some on the team count and are going to be able to donate thousands to the North Missouri Center for Youth and Families," McBee said. NMCYF was the event's chosen charity. Event organizers were well-pleased with the public turnout as well for both Friday night and Saturday. There was live music both days and plenty of food from vendors on site. McBee said he was happy with the number of entries and the entrants, themselves. "As time went on we started to get some big names in the barbecue world entering the competition which really surprised us," McBee said. He noted that feedback from the competitors was "very positive."

PHOTO CAPTION: Danny Dowell of Double Sauced, Chillicothe, prepares his entry in the Backyard competition. C-T Photo / Catherine Stortz Ripley

There were several local and area teams competing Saturday. Steve Mason (All Sauced Up BBQ Team) of Chillicothe and his team partner, Greg Vornholt, entered in the experienced competition. The team finished about right in the middle overall on the professional side, above some very seasoned pros, McBee said. Clint Boon (Cutthroat Que of Chillicothe) entered in both the experienced side and the Backyard competition. He won grand champion honors in the Backyard contest. Boon has been involved in barbecuing/ smoking for about 10 years and has competed in local contests. Danny Dowell of Double Sauced was close behind. Other area entrants were Andy Madden (Smoked Iguana BBQ and Sauce Company of Trenton) and Shane Renshaw (Smoke Jockeys of Brookfield). Although it's too early to sign up at this time, plans are being made for another event next year.

Just as there were two sides to the competition, there were two groups of judges. The professional entries were judged by certified judges from around the Midwest. The backyard competition was judged by local guest judges. The event also included free cooking classes provided to the public by Chris Marks, an eight-time world champion of the American Royal Cookoff. Teams competing entered four categories: ribs, brisket, pork butt and chicken. Top prize in the KCBS event was $5,000. The top prize for the backyard contest was $750. Smoke This BBQ walked away with the top honors in the KCBS event. Competitors came from Minnesota, Oklahoma, Iowa, Kansas, Illinois and Missouri. Awards were presented around 4 p.m. and just prior to the start of the Freedom Fest and Fireworks in the park that evening. McBee also helped coordinate the Freedom Fest and expressed appreciation to those who helped make both events possible.


Chillicothe invites patrons from all around to a two-day Fourth of July celebration featuring two main events to be held June 30 to July 1 to be held at Simpson Park. The first ever Grillin' & Chillin' event will be held in Chillicothe and feature a BBQ contest with approximately 25 teams from all over the Midwest starting when the park opens at 9 a.m. on Friday, June 30. This is a Kansas City Barbecue Society sanctioned BBQ contest and will include food vendors, a cooking class and live entertainment in the evening with a 21-and-up venue area. Barbecue events with food vendors on site will be available Saturday also. Games and activities for the children are also available on site. Grillin' & Chillin' is free and open to the public and visitors are allowed to come catch a whiff of barbecue from all kinds of cooks. The free cooking class will be led by eight-time world champion barbecuer, Chris Marks. Bands Hollow Point and Centerline will play live music starting Friday at 5 p.m. Barbecue contest awards will be presented at 4 p.m. on Saturday. Proceeds from this fundraising event will go to the North Missouri Center for Youth and Families. To enter the BBQ contest or for more information regarding the Grillin' & Chillin' contest, check out the Facebook page at

In conjunction with the Grillin' & Chillin' BBQ contest, Chillicothe will also be hosting the annual Freedom Festival Fourth of July celebration on Saturday evening July 1. This event will take place immediately following the barbecue event. The Freedom Festival is presented in conjunction with the City of Chillicothe and several local businesses and foundations. This year's Festival is being co-chaired by Carl Mcbee and Terry Rumery. The Freedom Festival will begin around 4 p.m. with food and snack vendors as well as on-site games and activities for kids. Live entertainment for the evening will be provided by The Dustin Thomas Band and Point of No Return starting at 6 p.m. This event is free and open to the public. Guests to the Freedom Festival are encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs. The professional pyrotechnic fireworks show will begin at dusk. This event is weather pending and in case of rain, stay tuned to local media.



C-T Photos by Butch Shaffer
July 6, 2016, CT

The 2016 Freedom Festival in Chillicothe took place Tuesday evening, July 5, 2016, beginning at 5 p.m. in Simpson Park, next to Chilli Bay Water Park. The fireworks were launched from the Chillicothe Country Club golf course at about 9:45 p.m., and the professional show lasted nearly 20 minutes. The event was postponed from its original date of Sunday, July 3, due to a high chance of rain in the forecast. Although Tuesday night was hot and humid, Freedom Festival coordinator, Scott Rule, said he thought the event went really well with at least 300 to 400 in the park, and that's not including those who were watching outside the park area. Rule, who took over the Freedom Festival last year as committee chairman, said he was pleased with the response from sponsors this year. There were more than 30 sponsors who helped put on the fireworks show that cost about $10,500. That price did not include advertising, insurance and other expenditures.

Activities this year included music by Dustin Thomas and the 190 Rhythm Section, lots of food options, other vendors, face painting, and a bounce house. A replica of the "Back To The Future" Delorean was also on the grounds for people to view. The fireworks show concluded the evening. Rule said he has received a lot of positive feedback on the event already, and those who work on the Freedom Festival are already excited for next year. With the Fourth of July being on a Tuesday next year, Rule is unsure when they will schedule the event, but they are excited about continuing to grow the event - possibly bringing in big-name entertainment and / or having a carnival in the future.

July 1, 2016 - The 2016 Freedom Festival in Chillicothe has been postponed from Sunday, July 3, to Tuesday, July 5, due to high chances of rain on Sunday. Fireworks are planned to be launched from the Chillicothe Country Club at dusk on Tuesday, and entertainment in Simpson Park will still be provided starting at 5 p.m. Before the professional firework show begins, the entertainment provided will include: food and drink vendors, a bounce house, dunk tank and face painting. There will also be music featuring Dustin Thomas and The 190 Rhythm Section from 6:30 until 9 p.m. In case of rain again on Tuesday, the back up, back up plan is to have the events on Saturday, July 9, with the same time and same plan.


Fireworks Show Set for Friday Evening; Events Start at 6 p.m.
June 30, 2015

The 2015 Freedom Festival in Chillicothe will be held Friday, July 3, beginning at 6 p.m. at Simpson Park. Scott Rule, Freedom Festival Committee chairman, has been pleased with the support given to ensure the community fireworks and this festival. "As this has been a transition year, we weren't sure how the support would be or if the festival would be able to keep going," he said. "We have been amazed with the cooperation we have received throughout the Chillicothe area to make sure this important tradition lived on." Rule took the helm of this committee after a meeting of community leaders in January 2015. "At that point," Rule said, "the most important job was securing a fireworks company for the display. We felt a little behind, but the fireworks company used by Chillicothe in 2014 had an opening on July 3, so we jumped at that opportunity." The Freedom Festival committee began to meet and solicit donations to fund the fireworks show, festival, insurance and other expenses. Many previous donors contributed, and new donors also stepped forward. The program planned for prior to the fireworks will be held in front of the pool on a stage provided by Copeland Development & Construction. Mayor Chuck Haney will emcee the event, with assistance from Rule. Haney has been instrumental in organizing a tribute to new Miss Missouri 2015 winner, McKensie Garber, and other Chillicothe area pageant queens through the years during part of the Freedom Festival festivities. Garber will talk to the crowd about her experiences through the Miss Missouri pageant as well as her platform. Following that part of the program, disc jockey Ed Englert will provide music for the crowd. There will be a variety of food vendors and face painting. "Funds raised through donations from over 30 area businesses, individuals and organizations have made this event possible," Rule said. "We could not have done this without their support."

Freedom Festival Plans Set
June 1, 2015

The Freedom Festival Committee has announced the 2015 fireworks' show will be held Friday, July 3rd at Simpson Park in front of the Chilli Bay Water Park. Rain date for the annual event is Sunday, July 5th. Other events and concessions are still in the planning stages.

Potential New Location for Freedom Festival in 2015
May 20, 2015

Scott Rule of Community Press presented the idea to the Chillicothe R-II Board of Education of having this year's Freedom Festival at the Chillicothe High School stadium instead of Simpson Park, where it has been held for the past several years. Dan Leatherman of KCHI announced last summer he would no longer be heading the Freedom Festival. Rule said that by January no one had stepped up yet to fill that role, so he decided to do so. Rule formed a Freedom Festival Committee, and the committee has been brainstorming different location ideas for the past several months.

Rule said he and the committee have been looking into different potential venues for the Freedom Festival, because the parking at Simpson Park is slim, and by people having to park across Washington Street and walk over to the park, it creates traffic hazards. He also said that depending on where one is sitting at the park, trees sometimes can block visualization of the firework show. By having the Freedom Festival at the stadium, there would be ample parking and clear visibility of the show for all. Rule said people would have no access to the field or track area, alcohol would not be permitted and the area would be heavily patrolled by officers. He also said trash would be cleaned up after the show, and he even presented the idea of the Chillicothe High School junior class running the concession stand for the event. Rule's wife, Lisa Rule, is a teacher and junior class sponsor at CHS. Rule explained that the junior class had one less home game than usual this past football season, which hurt the class's budget for prom. By having the junior class work concessions for the Freedom Festival, it would give them a head start on fundraising.

There has to be a 120 yard radius, called a "drop zone," for fireworks to be set off. In this radius, there cannot be any structures, and no one is allowed in that radius except the fireworks crew. Rule said there is a good spot for that near the stadium. J&M Display will once again be in charge of the fireworks display for the Freedom Festival, which is the same company that puts on the fireworks displays at the Royals stadium. However, because Rule and the Freedom Festival Committee got a late start on things this year, the Freedom Festival will he held on July third (with a rain date of July fifth) instead of the fourth due to J&M already being booked. Rule said J&M provides a certificate of insurance, and he is looking into insurance as well. However, the school board moved to table the discussion until they can talk to their insurance provider. The board will hold a special meeting as soon as possible in fairness to Rule and will vote on the matter at that meeting.

Celebrating July 4th
CT News July 5, 2013

CAPTION: Bursts of color shower down from the skies over Simpson Park during the fireworks show at the conclusion of Thursday's Freedom Fest. Park events began earlier in the evening with children's games, concession stands, and free face painting by members of Xi Alpha Kappa. The festival returned this year after an being cancelled last year due to excessive dry weather conditions. Temperatures in the 70s for most of the festival.

C-T Photo / Butch Shaffer

The city of Chillicothe celebrated its independence with a full day of events Thursday. The Fourth of July holiday kicked off with the 19th annual Grand River Area Family YMCA Freedom Run at Simpson Park. Matt Jones, associate executive director of the YMCA, said this year's race garnered a record 90 pre-race registrations. He estimated 120-130 participants total. Relatively cool temperatures, the kind of weather runners favor, made for near-perfect race conditions. Jones said this year's weather was much better than last year's. "I think when we started, it was 89 degrees," Jones explained. "When we got done, it was in the high 90s. It was bad, but this year it was perfect. It was only 60 degrees this morning. It was wonderful, some of the best we've had." A full list of medalists from this year's race may be found here.

The celebration continued with the arrival of the U.S. Military All Stars. The traveling baseball team, with players from every branch of the U.S. armed forces, arrived around noon and was led through the city by a procession of vehicles from the Chillicothe police and fire departments. Around 2 p.m., the All Stars and the Chillicothe Mudcats met with the public for an afternoon tailgate party outside Shaffer Park. Military vehicles, weaponry and memorabilia were on display. The Missouri National Guard and Trenton Coca-Cola sponsored a free meal of hot dogs, chips and bottled water. The All Stars and the Mudcats entertained the crowd at Shaffer Park to a seven-inning game which featured more patriotic activities between innings. This included an emotional tribute to the victims of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

CT Photo: Butch Shaffer
U.S. Military All Stars in Chillicothe

The food, fun and family-friendly activities continued around 6 p.m. with the kickoff of the Freedom Festival at Simpson Park. Last year's hot and dry weather conditions prompted a burn ban, causing the cancellation of last year's event and fireworks display. Children's games, face painting, glitter tattoos and music were just a handful of the activities festival-goers could enjoy during the event. Hy-Vee, Carl Maasdam's Food Booth and Tsunami Snow served up burgers, tenderloins, hot dogs, onion blossoms, funnel cakes, lemon shake-ups and Hawaiian shaved ice. At dusk, the skies over Simpson Park transformed into a sea of color with an impressive fireworks display.

Freedom Festival Chairman Dan Leatherman called this year's event a success. He said the festival could not have been accomplished without strong community support. "I would like to thank everyone who donated money for the purchase of fireworks," Leatherman said. "This includes the City of Chillicothe and many other foundations and local businesses. I would also like to thank the Chillicothe Emergency Services/Fire Department, plus the Parks and Recreation Department and the Chillicothe Country Club."

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