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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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