Catherine W. Idzerda" />

Family-friendly fun festival flourishing

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Catherine W. Idzerda
Sunday, June 27, 2010
— It started as a modest church celebration of God and country.

A little entertainment, a presentation from the church’s youth group, and a small fireworks show—that was about it for New Life Assembly of God’s Freedom Fest.

On Saturday, it was the 8th version of the event, and this time Freedom Fest featured nationally known Christian entertainment, a variety of food vendors, carnival rides and games and even a car show. It was all day and all free.

In those eight years, other fireworks shows or festivals disappeared or downsized.

Both the Jaycees and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows tried to put on a festival with fireworks in Janesville, but were unable to raise the money or the volunteers to make it work.

So how does Freedom Fest make it work?

Festivalgoers, vendors, performers and church members all said the same thing: It’s well organized, inexpensive, and, most importantly, “family friendly.”

“It really does have a different atmosphere, doesn’t it?” said Jill Henderson, a vendor who was maneuvering her pedal-powered ice cream cart through the grounds. “It’s alcohol- and smoke-free, and where can you find free rides any more?”

Joan and Greg Moely, members of the band Seven: One, volunteered to play at the event.

“It’s very well organized,” said Greg. “And it’s great for the band to have professional sound people.”

At other, larger Christian music events, band members struggled with disorganized or uninformed volunteers. Here, people had immediate answers.

“These volunteers, they have a heart for service, and that makes a difference,” Greg said.

Ted Jach and his family set up a tiny tent on the lawn. They traveled from Cambridge and were making a day of it.

While the 12-month-old tried to grab forbidden popcorn, Jach explained why they made the trip.

“The kids love it,” Jach said. “For parents, it’s great.”

A community event that’s alcohol- and drug-free is going to bring in like-minded folk; families feel comfortable there, Jach said.

Nine-year-old Zoey Jach—two dots over the “o,” if you please—had more concrete reasons for her happiness.

“I like all the rides,” Zoey said. “And the fireworks.”

Last updated: 1:59 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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