Saturday, February 07 2009
The Freedom Festival 2009 is starting to take shape. This year’s events will be suited better to families with more live entertainment.
2009 Freedom Festival tailored toward families
The Freedom Festival is returning in 2009 as an event better suited to families, organizers say.
Among the main changes will be a ban on coolers and free admission during lunch time on the first two days, Thursday and Friday. Those steps were taken in the interest of making families feel comfortable at the 2009 Freedom Festival, which will take place from June 18-21. Mick Conati, the Director of Downtown Development for the Growth Alliance of Greater Evansville, said, “This festival will be geared toward the community and giving back to the community.”
GAGE took over the festival last year after the previous organizers, a group of volunteers, found they couldn’t cover its cost. The 2008 event had left them with tens of thousands of dollars in debt.
Conati said the planning of the 2009 Freedom Festival has gone well so far, even though the announcement of it was supposed to come months earlier. The delay was largely a result of the difficulties involved in scheduling a large number of entertainers, Conati said.
In choosing the acts, GAGE tried hard to appeal to a wide variety of tastes, he said. The two main attractions will be performances by a country band and a rock band, on separate nights and on the riverfront.
“I think this is something that will become a staple of the event for Evansville,” he said.
Conati declined to identify either band, only saying he had been talking to famous groups such as Styx and REO Speedwagon but hadn’t been able to hire either.
Other attractions will include:
n Typhoon Tommy — A stuntman who performs tricks while on Jet Skis and other types of watercraft. For more information, go to www.jetskishows.com.
n F1 Champboats — These will replace boats which had run in the Thunder on the Ohio event during past Freedom Festivals. The event will be broadcast on the Speed Channel. Meanwhile the American Boat Racing Association plans to hold Thunder on the Ohio in August.
n East Versus West Fest — Schools and other organizations from Evansville’s East and West sides will compete against each other in sand volleyball and other games. The winner’s prize will be a trophy which the losers can win back the following year.
n Lake St. Louis Water Ski Show — A ski team that has been competing in tournaments since 2001. For more information, go to www.lslski.com.
n DockDogs — Dogs that compete against one another to see which can jump the farthest, as well as perform a number of other trips. For more information, www.dockDogs.com.
Also among the attractions will be carnival rides, portrayers of World War II soldier, a laser light show, an air show and the Junior Achievement Grand Prix.
In organizing the festival, Conati traveled to watch air shows in other cities, Houston and Las Vegas being among them. GAGE also distributed surveys, asking what the public most wanted in the event. The two answers most returned were that it be suitable for families and that there be live music.
The 2009 Freedom Festival will be held a week earlier than it was in many earlier years. That was done in order to accommodate Carnival Midway, which had a commitment elsewhere on the usual weekend.
Conati estimated the 2009 Freedom Festival will cost about $700,000. Helping to pay for it will be corporate sponsors such as Old National Bank, whose support was enough to ensure that anyone 15 or younger can attend the even for free.
“We view this as good for economic development and it’s going to support nonprofits,” said Bob Jones, Old National president and chief executive officer. “And given the challenging economy, we think people need to have a little bit of fun. We’re happy to assist with that.”
Those older than 15 can attend every day of the festival by buying a $15 button, sold by various nonprofit organizations. From every one sold, $2 will go support the organization’s charitable causes.
In another change from previous years, the only food sellers at the event will be nonprofit organizations. They will keep any money they bring in and put it toward charitable causes.
Conati said GAGE will need between 1,000 and 1,500 volunteers to put on the Freedom Festival. Those who would like to help out should call him at (812) 424-2986.