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O’Fallon Heritage and Freedom Fest 2017: Frolicking, fireworks and freedom

The city of O’Fallon celebrates 241 years of American independence with the 2017 Heritage & Freedom Fest, its biggest festival of the year.

This action-packed event runs from July 2-4 at the Ozzie Smith Sports Complex, 900 T. R. Hughes Blvd. in O’Fallon. As always, admission, parking and live entertainment are free. Details are online at www.heritageandfreedomfest.com.

 

Parking, directions, accessibility

Free parking is available at Fort Zumwalt North and Christian high schools [off Tom Ginnever Avenue]. On July 3 and 4, air-conditioned buses transport patrons to a drop off point near the festival entrance.

For those who want a premium parking spot with closer access to the festival entrance, park at the T. R. Hughes Ballpark west side parking lot. The cost is $10 on a first-come, first-served basis.

To access the festival from Interstate 70, visitors should take Exit 220 [Louisiana/Elsberry] to Hwy. 79. Continue north on Hwy. 79 to left on T. R. Hughes Boulevard and follow the signs to free parking. From Interstate 64, visitors should take the Hwy. K exit and turn north on Hwy. K, which becomes Main Street after passing under I-70. Turn right on Tom Ginnever Avenue and follow the signs.

The city of O’Fallon works to make Heritage & Freedom Fest physically accessible for all its patrons, including providing an accessible [ADA] parking lot in Westhoff Park with shuttle service.

Vehicles must display an official disabled persons license plate or hang tag to enter the ADA-accessible lot. No general parking is allowed and there is no ADA-accessible parking at any other locations.

To use a non-traditional mobility device on festival grounds, check in at the main entrance. More information is available at www.heritageandfreedomfest.com/accessibility.

Pets and other animals are not allowed, unless they are trained service animals.

 

Family Day and Kids’ Zone

The fun gets going on Sunday, July 2, also known as Family Day. From 4-10 p.m., carnival rides are available at discounted prices. Guests can purchase a Sunday-only “unlimited rides” wristband for $20 at the festival.

Fireworks and other live entertainment are not scheduled on opening night, but the carnival midway and vendors are open. The Bubble Bus is on hand from 4-8 p.m., and the family-friendly sideshow, Gilliam Family Illusions, performs at 6 and 8 p.m. For $5 per session, kids can bounce, flip and roll while wearing giant inflatable globes in a wacky match of Knockerball.

In the Kids’ Zone, which is available all day until shortly before fireworks, smaller patrons can celebrate [and weary parents can rest] with hours of free family fun. Jump and play on giant inflatables, take part in parachute games, play with hula hoops and giant checkers, and get faces painted. Crafts include making patriotic visors and decorating patriotic glasses.

 

Independence Day parade

O’Fallon’s Heritage & Freedom Fest Parade officially kicks off the city’s Independence Day celebration at 9:30 a.m. on July 4, rain or shine.

This parade is one of the largest and most colorful in the area, drawing large crowds of patriotically dressed attendees and a multitude of parade entries vying for cash prizes and trophies. Categories include “Best Overall,” “Best Musical Float,” “Most Patriotic Float” and the coveted “Mayor’s Choice Award.”

The 2.1-mile parade route starts at the corner of Main and Third Streets, travels north on Main Street to Tom Ginnever Avenue, where it turns east, and ends at T. R. Hughes Boulevard near the entrance to the festival.

Spectators coming to watch the parade with family or friends are encouraged to arrive early to avoid traffic closures and find a spot along the route. Pets are discouraged from attending due to the large crowds and extreme weather; extra-hot pavement may burn paws.

For those who can’t attend Freedom Fest but still want to watch the parade, it is aired on the city’s government access cable channel, O’FallonTV, which is found on Channel 991 [Charter Cable] or Channel 99 [AT&T U-Verse].

 

Live entertainment

On Monday, July 3 and Tuesday, July 4, Heritage & Freedom Fest turns up the heat with live entertainment on the Main Stage. Listen to country stars and a military jazz band on July 3, and dance to classic rock and cover bands on July 4.

Throughout the festival, Gillam Family Illusions puts on a fast-paced, high-quality magic show with a Christian spin. This Jefferson City-based act is a family affair, so the mystifying tricks are clean and appropriate for all ages. Expect illusions, music and audience participation.

The U.S. Air Force Band of Mid-America “Shades of Blue” Jazz Ensemble performs at 4:45 p.m. on Monday, July 3. This group of professional, enlisted musicians plays traditional big band jazz, bebop, swing and modern jazz. Listen for classics from Glenn Miller and Count Basie, mixed in with pieces by contemporary composers. Whether performing for a head of state, before hometown crowds or for the troops at home and abroad, the Shades of Blue reflects the heritage and pride of the United States Air Force.

Whiskey Morning, who takes the stage at 6:45 p.m. on July 3, is a five-piece country band from St. Louis. Their classic sound, harmonies and old-fashioned twang live up to their motto: “Country like country when country meant country.”

Country star Eric Paslay – known for megahits “Friday Night” and “Song About a Girl” – lights up the Heritage & Freedom Fest at 8:45 p.m. The Texas native and Grammy nominee currently is on a nationwide tour.

On Independence Day, Legends Undercover performs at 2 and 4:30 p.m. The St. Louis-based cover band brings energy and charisma to a wide variety of feel-good music. Sing along to familiar hits with an updated sound. Concert-goers might hear anything from Chuck Berry and U2 to Lady Gaga and The Killers.

Rock supergroup World Classic Rockers kicks off the jams at 5:45 p.m. with a stellar line up. Bassist Nick St. Nicholas and guitarist Michael Monarch are best known from a little band called Steppenwolf. Drummer Aynsley Dunbar was the original drummer for Journey. Randall Hall sang and played guitar with Lynyrd Skynyrd. Greg Walker was the lead vocalist for Carlos Santana’s band and Fran Cosmo sang lead vocals for Boston.

The last act on July 4 is Creedence Clearwater Revisited at 8 p.m. This group is the project of bassist Stu Cook and drummer Doug “Cosmo” Clifford, both Creedence Clearwater Revival founding members and Rock and Roll Hall of Famers. The swamp rock giants were the touchstone of a generation with songs like “Fortunate Son,” “Born on the Bayou,” “Proud Mary” and “Who’ll Stop the Rain.”

 

Fireworks spectacular

The festival’s famed fireworks display is named for the city’s inspirational Heritage & Freedom Fest coordinator, Jena “Dusty” Mielke. Bring lawn chairs or blankets to watch one of the biggest fireworks shows in the county, presented by McBride & Son Companies.

The Fireworks Spectacular lights up the sky at 10:15 p.m. on July 3 and at 9:30 p.m. on July 4.

The best place to view the display is from the festival grounds; however, Westhoff Park will be accessible approximately 30 minutes before the fireworks display. For safety reasons, viewers at Westhoff Park must stay away from the clearly marked fireworks perimeter.

Please note: T. R. Hughes Boulevard and Cool Springs Industrial Drive temporarily close for one hour before fireworks shows.

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