Hoopla

2018 Cedar Rapids Freedom Festival anniversary lineup sees old favorites return, new events added

Liz Martin/The Gazette

Maddie, a Golden Retriever competing in the Senior class, leaps from the dock after her toy in the Big Air contest on the first day of the 2017 Freedom Festival DockDogs competition in Cedar Rapids. The perennially popular pooch event returns June 29 to July 1 on the lawn at the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library in Cedar Rapids.
Liz Martin/The Gazette Maddie, a Golden Retriever competing in the Senior class, leaps from the dock after her toy in the Big Air contest on the first day of the 2017 Freedom Festival DockDogs competition in Cedar Rapids. The perennially popular pooch event returns June 29 to July 1 on the lawn at the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library in Cedar Rapids.
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CEDAR RAPIDS — The city’s Freedom Festival is celebrating 35 years of rallying the community around the spirit of patriotism with its annual lineup of events.

Over the course of the nonprofit’s 35 years, organizers have grown the festival into more than a fireworks display. Organizers expect 420,000 will come out to enjoy the 102 events lined up this year, which span from June 14 to July 4.

“It’s awesome that the festival’s been around that long,” Freedom Festival Executive Director Robyn Rieckhoff said.

The festival has an economic impact of $13.5 million, with 95 percent of funding coming from local individuals and corporations, Rieckhoff said.

From vendors and musicians involved to the buttons sold to attendees, the festival is largely put on with local contributions and support.

“We could not do what we do and have a successful festival without the help of our volunteers,” said Carissa Johnson, events and marketing director.

Official kickoff is the June 14 Tribute to Heroes dinner, featuring keynote speaker Dan Gable, former University of Iowa wrestling coach. Popular annual events continue with Balloon Glow at Brucemore on June 19, DockDogs competitions June 29 to July 1, and the festival parade June 30 on 16th Avenue SW and Third Street SE in the Czech Village and NewBo neighborhoods.

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It all leads up to the big day July 4, beginning with the traditional pancake breakfast at Veterans Memorial Building and ending with the fireworks finale downtown.

But plenty of new events also are in the lineup.

People can bring blankets and picnics to Marion Square Park from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 23 to enjoy the new Patriotic Picnic, with hands-on activities for all ages. Food vendors will be on-site, along with inflatables and the Freedom Festival train, making its rounds for children to ride.

Another first is Pianopalooza on the NewBo Market Lawn from 6 to 9 p.m. June 29, which starts seven days of music and provides other entertainment for festivalgoers, Johnson said.

A birthday party celebrating the festival’s 35th year will be held after the parade June 30 with enough free cake to feed 1,000 people.

Get in on the fun by purchasing a $5 Freedom Festival button at a local Hy-Vee, Casey’s General Store or the U.S. Cellular Center Box Office.

The button functions as the ticket into the festival’s produced events, although some events, such as the Tribute to Heroes dinner, have an extra fee. Organizers also have dispersed 50 golden buttons, which can be turned in for a selection of prizes with a value of at least $50, Rieckhoff said.

Freedom Festival Main Events: Visit Freedomfestival.com/events/ for the full event list and for allowable items. Fireworks and sparklers are not allowed; coolers allowed at some events.

 

June 14

TRIBUTE TO HEROES DINNER

6 to 9 p.m., The Hotel at Kirkwood Center Community College, 7725 Kirkwood Blvd. SW, Cedar Rapids; Keynote speaker: Dan Gable; 2018 heroes: Hal Garwood, Dennis Kendrick, Arturo Melendez; Tickets: $35 per person at Freedomfestival.com/events/tribute-to-heroes-dinner/registration/

June 19

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BALLOON GLOW

6 to 10 p.m., Brucemore front lawn, fronting First Avenue SE, Cedar Rapids; gates open 5:30 p.m.; tethered hot-air balloons; music by Alisabeth Von Presley; food vendors, Cedar Ridge Winery; coolers with beer and wine allowed; no pets, no fireworks/sparklers, no smoking; free with festival button

June 23

PATRIOTIC PICNIC

11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Marion Square Park, 1107 Seventh Ave., Marion; free admission; bring picnics and seating; food and beverages available for purchase. 

June 24

FREEDOM BIKE RIDE

Noon to 7:30 p.m., Lowe Park, 4500 N. 10th St., Marion; 30- and 55-mile loops; meal 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the park; entertainment, Boot Jack Duo, 3:30 to 7:30 p.m.; registration: $40, includes a meal after the ride and button, which must be worn during the ride; day of ride at Lowe Park beginning at 10:30 a.m. or in advance at Freedomfestival.com/freedom-ride-registration/

June 27

SPECIAL NEEDS ROCK ’N’ BOWL

11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Westdale Bowling Center, 2020 Scotty Dr. SW, Cedar Rapids; bowling, dancing, photo booth, food for purchase; festival button required

FLAG RETIREMENT CEREMONY

6 to 6:30 p.m., New Covenant Bible Church, 3090 N. Center Point Rd. NE, Cedar Rapids

JUNE 28

MOVIE NIGHT AT THE BALLPARK: “FROZEN”

7 to 10 p.m., Veterans Memorial Stadium, 950 Rockford Rd. SW, Cedar Rapids; gates open at 6 p.m.; bring blankets, no lawn chairs allowed on the field; free with festival button; free inflatables, free T-shirt for the first 1,000 children 

June 29

JUMP FOR FREEDOM — DOCKDOGS

10 a.m. to 6 p.m. June 29 to July 1, front lawn, National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, 1400 Inspiration Place SW, Cedar Rapids; free with button; registration day of event or in advance at Freedomfestival.com/events/jump-for-freedom-dock-dogs/2/

PIANOPALOOZA

6 to 9 p.m., NewBo City Market, 1100 Third St. SE, Cedar Rapids; festival button required; bring seating, food and drink available for purchase, market open 

June 30

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FREEDOM FESTIVAL PARADE

10 a.m. to noon, Czech Village/NewBo, Cedar Rapids; also building Block Extravaganza, 9 a.m. inside NewBo City Market; Imagination Square, 9 a.m., and 34th Army Band concert, 6 to 9 p.m., NewBo Market Lawn

July 1

34TH ARMY BAND SIDEWINDERS

7 to 10 p.m., Lowe Park Amphitheatre, Marion

July 4

PANCAKE BREAKFAST

8 to 11 a.m., Veterans Memorial Building, 50 Second Avenue Bridge, Cedar Rapids; $6 adult, $3 child, $1 discount with button 

FIREWORKS FINALE

4 to 10:30 p.m., downtown Cedar Rapids; fireworks at 9:45 p.m.; face painting, music, food, balloon artists and more; free with button

FREEDOM FESTIVAL CONCERT

McGrath Amphitheatre, 475 First St. SW, Cedar Rapids

— 5 to 6:30 p.m., Airwaves

— 7 to 9:30 p.m., The Johnny Holm Band

Free with button; site opens at 4 p.m., stay for the fireworks; no coolers allowed

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