Janesville38.9°

Despite the heat, Freedom Fest draws crowd

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Catherine W. Idzerda
July 1, 2012

— 300 volunteers.

1,400 sno-cones.

40,000-plus gallons of water.

More than $50,000 from sponsors.

One big-name Christian music star.

Those are just a few of the numbers that went into making Saturday’s Freedom Fest happen.

The event, which took place on the grounds of New Life Assembly of God, 2416 North Wright Road, Janesville, featured eight mechanical rides, bounce houses and other inflatables, a petting zoo and live entertainment—all for free.

In addition, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Mercy Health System and local dentists volunteered their time to provide free health care and dental checkups. People who needed follow-up care were given vouchers for the Mercy South Clinic.

The Rev. Ben Breit, New Life’s youth pastor, said that despite the heat, people turned out in force to take advantage of those services.

“There was a line when it opened and there was a line there when it ended,” Breit said.

This year, the church added more mechanical rides and inflatables to reduce the lines at these popular attractions.

Still, even in the heat of the afternoon, there were enough visitors on the grounds to make brief waits necessary.

By 5 p.m., many people had staked out spots in front of the stage in anticipation of the evening’s main music event: A concert by Aaron Shust, a four-time Gospel Music Association Dove Award winner. His song, “My Hope is in You,” has been on the Billboard Christian Songs chart for 52 weeks and peaked at No. 1.

Most sat under pop-up tents or umbrellas, trying to beat the heat.

The fire department was on the grounds Friday night and twice Saturday to soak the fields near the fireworks site. Firefighters put down about 20,000 gallons of water Friday night, and about the same amount Saturday morning, said Lt. Christopher Lloyd of the Janesville Fire Department.

Less impressive, but more refreshing, was the gentle mist of water coming from soaker hoses suspended between two trees. Plenty of kids—and a few adults—stood happily in the spray.

Breit said the event really came to life at dusk, when people started to fill the grounds for the concert and the fireworks.

“That’s when you see what Freedom Fest really is,” Breit said.

The event cost about $100,000, and about half of that comes from sponsors, said Stacy Maybee, church business administrator.

The event is not a moneymaker for the church, and any money it receives from vendors goes to cover costs.

“We really couldn’t do it without our sponsors,” Maybee said. “We’re really grateful to them.”



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