“It’s a conglomeration of cool stuff.”
Waldron’s own Jason Yantiss is scheduling his ninth Waldron Freedom Fest for July 2-3 at Waldron Schools.
“Essentially it starts Friday evening, and Friday evening consists of concerts, we have some food vendors in there, games, sporting events, that sort of thing,” he said. “I think a BBQ contest and possibly a chili cook off.”
Yantiss hasn’t booked any bands yet, but he’s looking for them: “We’ll get that solidified in the next couple weeks.”
“Saturday it’s basically the same thing,” he said. “More bands, we have a car show, we have a parade, more games and events, regular commerce vendors and then fireworks.”
The parade typically showcases school sporting event teams, horses, floats, fire departments from other communities, and a grand marshal.
“There’s probably more people in the parade than there are watching because it takes the whole town,” he said. “It’s kind of neat. There’s usually a big water fight so everyone throws water at everyone.”
Vendors so far include Chicken Inn, Munchies, Smokey’s Ice Cream, a hand dipped iced cream vendor, and “a couple BBQ guys” – including Melvin Pierce. Yantiss has been posting vendors on the Waldron Will Facebook Group to hype people up, but he hasn’t posted them all to keep the element of surprise.
“I got some secrets I don’t want to publish yet,” he said.
New to this year may be a hot air balloon and possible bringing in a black hawk helicopter.
“We’re looking at doing a tethered hot air balloon, and I think we’re going to bring in probably a Black Hawk Helicopter possibly,” he said. “We might land it in the middle of the soccer field.”
“We try to do something new every year,” he said. “We’re thinking about bringing the waterfall back.”
The festival will end with a half-hour long fireworks show synced with music played by Giant FM.
“It’s probably one of the biggest firework shows in the state,” he said.
Yantiss took over the Freedom Fest nine years ago to fulfill his love of fireworks.
“Waldron’s been doing fireworks since early 1950 I think, so almost 70 years now,” he said. “It stopped when they built the high school in 2001. ... I think they tried to do the vendors and stuff downtown, across from the store. They shut the streets down and stuff. It died out for a year or two. Then all they did were fireworks, but they were small shows. And then I came around.”
“When I was a kid I used to watch the Waldron Fireworks show,” he added. “My grandpa and I always watched it together. And then I just always had an interest in doing fireworks, so I started doing them. I got real competitive with a couple of guys, and decided to just trounce them. That’s how that happened.”
The event is sponsored by local businesses.
“It’s always challenging to get the funds for it, but anything we have left over we take through Waldron Will and we buy food for the kids, make sure the pantry is stocked,” he said. “The year before last we bought a pass for the Children’s Museum. We’d like to try to do that with maybe Connor Prairie or something.”