Freedom Fest organizers predict big numbers for Saturday event
JANESVILLE — With a little cooperation from Mother Nature, organizers of Saturday's Freedom Fest in Janesville believe the event could set a new attendance record.
In the past, an estimated 25,000 to 30,000 people attended the daylong event at New Life Assembly of God.
The Rev. Michael Jackson said that could change this year, particularly because several other area events no longer share the same pre-holiday date with Freedom Fest, a daylong festival filled with family-friendly events, Christian music and a fireworks display.
Jackson spent Wednesday morning with his Freedom Fest committee walking the grounds at the church to assess water damage. The property is draining well, he said, and any concerns have been offset by contingency plans, such as moving carnival rides off of grass and onto an asphalt parking lot.
Freedom Fest started as a backyard barbecue in 2002 and has grown into one of the largest free community events in the Janesville area.
“We take the Disney approach and try to add something each year so people aren't complaining that it's the same thing every year,” Jackson said.
This year, Freedom Fest will feature a tractor-trailer filled with the latest video games, an improved rock-climbing wall provided by the Wisconsin National Guard and two more major carnival rides.
A significant new attraction, Jackson said, will be the church's 60-foot cross, which was erected this spring.
“We have people coming every day to see it,” Jackson said.
The gates will open at 11 a.m. Saturday, and this year's musical entertainment will include three acts.
Citizen Way, formerly known as The Least of These, will take the stage at 5 p.m. The Christian contemporary-rock band from Elgin, Ill., released its debut single “Should've Been Me” a year ago.
Leeland, a Grammy-nominated Christian rock band from Texas, will play at 6:30 p.m. The band has released four studio albums, including “The Great Awakening,” which was nominated for a Grammy Award for “Best Contemporary Christian Music.”
The Afters, winners of Dove awards for new artist of the year (2006) and rock/contemporary album of the year (2009), will round out the musical entertainment at 8 p.m. Their song “Never Going Back to OK” was the most-played song on R&R magazine's Christian CHR chart for 2008.
Jackson said Freedom Fest has typically had just one band. This year's expansion to three is an experiment as the committee considers an expansion to a two-day event.