116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Despite the gloomy forecast, the Freedom Festival’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” parade marched on Saturday morning.
Red, white and blue beaded necklaces, glow sticks, and candy filled the city’s streets as attendees watched the parade’s participants make their way through downtown Cedar Rapids.
The parade included a variety of organizations and marchers such as the 34th Army Band from Fairfield, the Freedom Festival Express, and city police and firefighters.
Denise Schuester, a Robins resident, said she and her family have come to the parade for 10 years. This year, she was looking forward to her daughter marching in the parade for the first time.
“Our daughter is in it for Kirkwood dance,” Schuester said. ”But obviously the kids, too. They love the parade and they love the candy.“
Jessica Boots of Marion said this was her fourth year attending the Freedom Festival parade, and she has attended other Freedom Festival events as well.
“We've done mostly the parade, a couple of the car shows, and then of course the fireworks,” Boots said.
The parade was just one event that’s part of this year’s Freedom Festival. Every year, Cedar Rapids hosts a three-week festival, which ends on the Fourth of July with the fireworks show.
Other events the Freedom Festival has hosted include Balloon Glow and Great American Kites, Jump for Freedom — Dog Docks, and the Volta Youth Music and Arts Festival.
After the parade, attendees could head to Greene Square for Imagination! Square, another Freedom Festival event powered by Tanager Place. The family-friendly event featured bounce houses, educational interactive booths, and Freedom Festival Trackless train rides.
For Shari McDowell, this was her first year as a participant in the parade. McDowell represented her studio, Hips ‘n’ Salsa, a dance studio that teaches belly dancing and fitness classes.
“I've been renting space in a small studio to teach and we're expanding into some Latin dances as well, so the Arabic dance fused together nicely,“ McDowell said. ”But Arabic is probably where my passion lies.“
McDowell started belly dancing about 20 years ago and decided to teach classes around 10 years ago to share the culture and her passion with others.
McDowell said this was her first year of a “parade season,” and has participated in other parades such as the SaPaDaPaSo parade on St. Patrick’s Day and Pride parade. She hopes that participating in parades will help increase her studio’s visibility.
Festival events run through July 4. More details can be found at freedomfestival.com