Freetown residents come together to continue annual festival



While researching the history of the Freetown July Festival, Cheryl Long learned that land had been specifically purchased for the event.

A group of local businessmen bought a 1.75-acre parcel in 1939 and dedicated it to the town in 1940 to be used for the festival with proceeds benefiting Pershing Township Park. The festival’s roots trace back to the late 1800s.

[sc:text-divider text-divider-title=”Story continues below gallery” ]

“The festival was a time when the whole community came together, worked together and had a festival,” Long said. “That’s not what it is now. What it has become is a few people on a committee having a festival for the community. That is not what we want.”

After this year’s festival July 13 and 14, the future of it was uncertain.

That all changed after a meeting Aug. 13 at Freetown United Methodist Church. Five members of the festival committee and six other people attended and expressed an interest in working to keep it alive, and there were others who couldn’t make it to the meeting but told Long they want to help.

So the Freetown July Festival will be back in 2019.

“It was very optimistic, especially with the new people and the things that they were bringing to the table,” said Long, who has been on the festival committee since 2010. “These are people that we need on our team. They are people who are of influence that can really help.”

One new member will serve as a liaison between the committee and the Pershing Township Volunteer Fire Department, which conducts a fish fry, an auction and a 5K run/walk during the festival.

“The fire department would continue on with their fish fry and their auction and their 5K even without the festival, but we do bring the crowds,” Long said. “That has always been my goal is we need to partner with them and work together to make this thing happen.”

Committee meetings are going to be conducted at the fire department at 7 p.m. on the first Monday of each month, except in September when it will be on the third Monday.

Officer elections will be conducted at that meeting. Until then, Long is serving as interim president.

“I’m going to run for president because I feel like I have a pretty clear vision of what needs to happen from here on out,” she said. “We want to get back to the community being involved. This is their festival, and we want everybody involved in it.”

A big priority for the committee is to bring back fireworks next year.

“People were so upset that we didn’t have the fireworks, and we did everything we could to make it happen, but we just couldn’t do it,” Long said. “I think that brought it into the light that this could be the end. I think this year with losing the fireworks and the car show was just a huge eye-opener for everybody. It was like, ‘Wow! We are either going to move forward or we’re going to quit, one or the other.’”

A woman at the recent meeting knows someone involved in QMIX’s fireworks in Columbus, so Long hopes they are able to help Freetown.

“We’ve just got to find the place,” she said. “We’ve just got some logistics to work out on that.”

The committee also needs volunteers for various roles: Head of the kitchen and kitchen staff, car show organizer, parade chairman and staff, secretary and vice president of the festival committee and festival volunteers.

The man who runs T-Roy VJ and has done sound and karaoke for the festival in recent years also has joined the committee and will organize entertainment.

“He is in touch with a lot of top entertainment in the area, and so he’s going to help us with that, as well,” Long said. “We want to make it a fantastic lineup of entertainment and various entertainment, not just all one genre. We want to make it a variety to appeal to more people.”

When the committee conducts elections in September, Long said clear responsibilities will be assigned and a timeline of when those need to happen will be shared.

“Those are things that we’ve not had in the past,” she said.

She also plans to talk to past committee members to see what they did to draw people to the festival and have them speak at the October meeting. In 1978, the festival was three days and brought in an estimated 35,000 people.

“We want to have them share with us their thoughts and ideas so that we can learn from them and get an idea of the things that we need to be doing if we want those crowds back,” Long said.

At one point, the festival was Wednesday through Sunday, and when Long joined the committee in 2010, it was Friday through Sunday. In recent years, it has just been Friday and Saturday.

“I would like to get it back to three, maybe four days,” she said. “We do eventually want to bring the rides back. I don’t know that we’re going to be able to do it the first year going in, but we do have a goal to do that. In order to do that, we’ve got to have enough people because we had the opportunity to have the rides here, but it required us to run the festival from Wednesday to Saturday night.”

Long said she knows people are interested in keeping the festival going. One post she made about it on Facebook was liked more than 10,000 times and had a lot of shares.

“We have a lot of people who care about the festival,” she said. “I think they just need to understand that it was in jeopardy and ways that they can help because I do think that people want to help, they just didn’t know how to help. I think getting it out there on Facebook and in the newspaper, that’s the best thing that we can do.”

She also had posted on the If You Grew Up in Jackson County Facebook page asking people to share their memories of the festival, and it generated a lot of comments.

“It’s like they are reluctant to let it go, and that’s a good thing because some things like that just shouldn’t die,” she said. “A lot of these little festivals are dying out. We’ve got the park, and we’ve got the place to do it, so we need to make the use of it.”

After the committee meeting earlier this month, Long said she was driving home with her daughter, Stephanie, and they expressed their excitement about the future of the festival.

“We were hooting and hollering,” Long said, smiling. “We were just so excited about the fact that this is not the end, this is a new beginning.”

[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”At a glance” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

The Freetown July Festival committee’s next meeting is at 7 p.m. Sept. 17 at the Pershing Township Volunteer Fire Department, 4696 W. Columbus Pike, Freetown. Election of officers will be conducted.

From October on, the meetings will be on the first Monday of each month at the same time and location.

Anyone interested in joining the committee or volunteering with the festival is invited to attend the meetings.

For information about the Freetown July Festival, visit


No posts to display