Celebrating together in the name of independence - Morgan Hill Times: Community

Celebrating together in the name of independence

New this year to Freedom Fest: Fireworks display will take place for the first time at the Outdoor sports Center on Condit Road

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Posted: Thursday, June 20, 2013 11:11 am | Updated: 5:22 pm, Mon Jul 8, 2013.

This year’s Morgan Hill Freedom Fest promises to offer all the excitement and celebration that area Independence Day revelers are accustomed to during the local commemoration of the holiday, capped off with “the largest fireworks show ever produced in Morgan Hill,” according to organizers.

The Thursday, July 4 evening fireworks display will take place for the first time at the Outdoor Sports Center on Condit Road, which will provide for a bigger safety “fallout zone” for the pyrotechnics, according to Freedom Fest President Charles Weston.

That means organizers can shoot up to five-inch fireworks cannons into the air instead of the three-inch shells they have used for the last several years at the former fireworks site at the Community Park, Weston explained. The larger shells can ignite aerial displays up to 500 feet in diameter, while the three-inch shells only produce explosions up to 300 feet in diameter.

“That’s something we’ve never been able to do before,” Weston said.

Plus, the new location for the fireworks will offer more parking, and easier access to and from the site, which will in fact be welcoming visitors around 4 p.m. on the Fourth, Weston said. Parking will be available along Condit Road. Pre-fireworks entertainment will start at the OSC about 4 p.m. July 4 with The Just Picked String Band, followed by The Usual Suspects who will perform from about 7:30 p.m. to about 9:30 p.m.

Mobile food vendors will be available before the fireworks, though visitors are free to bring their own picnic supplies, Weston said. No alcohol will be allowed on the site.

Shortly after 9:30 p.m., when the wind has died down and the sky is dark enough, the fireworks display will begin, Weston said.

But that’s just the end of the holiday festivities, which start Wednesday night, July 3, with the annual “Patriotic Sing” at the Britton Middle School gym, at 80 Central Ave. The theme for this year’s Freedom Fest is “Sing the Songs of America,” and the 6 p.m. performance will feature local elementary school students from Morgan Hill and San Martin singing traditional songs honoring those who have served in the armed forces, as well as those currently serving.

Then from 7 to 10:30 p.m. July 3 at the Community and Cultural Center amphitheater, 17000 Monterey Road, is the Family Music Fest, another live entertainment extravaganza featuring Project Hired performing a square dancing show, followed by The Usual Suspects performing live music. Gourmet food, beer, wine and soft drinks will be available for purchase during that show.

The morning of the Fourth of July starts off with the one-mile and 5K “Freedom Run,” which takes a route through most of downtown Morgan Hill. Registration begins at 6:30 a.m. at P.A. Walsh Elementary School, with the race start times staggered from 7:45 to 8:15 a.m.

And registration for the annual July 4 Car Show and Cruise starts at 7:30 a.m. at the Community and Cultural Center. The cruise starts at 9:30 a.m. and the car show starts at 11:30 a.m.

The centerpiece of the annual Morgan Hill Freedom Fest celebration - the Fourth of July parade - has been dubbed Santa Clara County’s “official” Independence Day parade, according to the Freedom Fest website. As of Tuesday, more than 140 entries - including floats, local and regional dignitaries, equestrian groups and marching bands - had signed up to march in the parade. Pre-parade entertainment starts at 9 a.m. on various stages positioned along the parade route, which goes north on Monterey Road through downtown Morgan Hill, west on Main Avenue, south on Peak Avenue and east on Dunne Avenue.

The parade will start shortly after the entertainment.

And for local cyclists, the revelry starts the weekend before Independence Day, with the Freedom Fest’s second annual “Bike Classic,” featuring 100K, 30-mile, 13-mile and 6-mile routes. That takes place June 29 at the Morgan Hill Coyote Creek Trailhead. Registration is encouraged as soon as possible before the event.

Freedom Fest is a nonprofit organization that relies heavily on sponsorships and donations - in addition to registration fees for the various events - in order to conduct the annual festivities, Weston said. The two biggest sponsors this year are Commonwealth Bank and Paramit Medical Devices.

The biggest expenses are for the parade and fireworks, which draw the most spectators. Organizers estimated the parade last year drew about 50,000 people to town, and the fireworks attracted up to 20,000 to the Community Park grounds.

The organization is still in need of donations and volunteers to help with the holiday events.

“The reason we do all this is to continually try to reinforce how lucky we are to live here, and how grateful we are for that,” Weston said. “Everybody takes it for granted, including me. We’re trying to get the children to catch the curve early, so they can be good citizens and realize this (country) is a pretty good place to live.”

For more information about Freedom Fest, including how to volunteer or donate, and to register for events, go the Freedom Fest website at mhfreedomfest.com.

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