Freedom flows like a river

Published 10:24 pm Tuesday, June 16, 2009

America’s best days are yet to come.” Former President Ronald Reagan summarized the American spirit in this famous quote, and Demopolis will celebrate the hope that inspires America with the ninth annual Freedom on the River festival this Fourth of July.

During a time of war and economic crisis, Americans still possess freedoms that many in the world do not have. The Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce has been working diligently to sponsor an event that will allow citizens and tourists alike – of all ages – to celebrate American freedom as a community.

The event will begin with a children’s parade at 7 p.m. All children under the age of 12 are encouraged to participate by decorating “childhood modes of transportation” with patriotic colors and memorabilia. No motorized forms of transportation will be allowed in the parade, yet items such as bicycles and roller skates are encouraged. Prizes will be awarded to the top three finishers in each age category, with the age categories being birth to 4, 5 to 8 and 9 to 12 years old.

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The children’s parade will begin at the Civic Center and continue down Commissioners Avenue to the city landing.

Following the children’s parade, fireworks will begin shortly after dark.

“Our first priority is to provide a quality and safe event that families can share together on this holiday,” said Chamber of Commerce President Kelley Smith. “We usually average 5,000 people in attendance. While the event is mostly put on for locals, we certainly invite tourists to participate.”

Freedom on the River began nine years ago as a spinoff of the wildly successful Christmas on the River festival. While Freedom on the River was never intended to be a weeklong event like Christmas on the River, it was originally designed as a three-day festival that included the Best Burger in Bama competition and entertainment.

In recent years, the Chamber has changed the emphasis of Freedom on the River toward a shorter, more family-oriented celebration.

Still, celebrating freedom is in no way free.

In addition to the Chamber of Commerce, several local businesses are sponsoring Freedom on the River. While the fireworks and logistics of the festival still add up to around $6,000, costs have been reduced in the past two years due to a partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“Soliciting sponsorships is my biggest responsibility,” said Smith.

With the children’s parade representing a symbolic hope for “America’s best days yet to come” and the fireworks representing the majesty of American heritage, the Chamber of Commerce invites all to participate in Freedom on the River and the celebration of America. Those seeking more information are encouraged to call the Chamber of Commerce at 289-0270.