LaFayette's finest greeted Freedom Festival attendees with a smile and a willingness to help Friday, June 28, when festivities kicked off at 5 p.m.

T.J. Brown and Garrett Bradley are employees of the LaFayette's Street Department, but on Friday Brown and Bradley were also on hand to help out those first entering the LaFayette recreational center for the Freedom Fest to know where to park.

Kreis Wynkler, a LaFayette police officer, was also on hand to help attendees of the event stay safe and not get a ticket for parking in areas designated for the handicapped. 

"We're just doing patrol out here today," Wynkler said as he recommended where not to park.

One vendor, Matthew McKee, said he has been coming to this festival for about six years now. His M&M Fun Time Novelty's was starting to draw a crowd as early as 5 p.m., when the event began.

Sally Lesperance of the LaFayette Church of God was handing out event notification cards for an upcoming Family Fun Day from her church's booth. Some of the Freedom Festival activities and vendors were there, too, such as the Kona Ice truck and a wet and dry inflatable.

In addition to the corn-hole tournament presented by Walmart, the food-eating contest, the pro wrestling event and more, there were other things going on, too. 

For example, workers at the event bustled here and there to ensure everything went according to plan. There were three young males in black shades tooling around in a souped-up golf cart with a roof. These three seemed to be maintaining pedestrian traffic, zipping in and out of tight corners, where they were needed for one reason or another.

One of the three -- Dalton Ash, the program supervisor with the recreation center -- said, "I'm coming to check on the pool. I'm making sure all my lifeguards are doing what they are supposed to be doing today."

Ash also said that the anticipated crowd was going to push the pool towards its maximum occupancy number of 225, which is why 12 lifeguards had been scheduled to work in the event in case that happened. 

His helpers -- Jay Sprague and Parker Lively -- were seen helping a group at a nearby baseball field. Ash explained: "We're getting ready to have the old-timer's baseball game. So, we're passing out shirts and waiting on everybody to show up."

That event was slated to start at 7 p.m., but event-goers were already starting to congregate and unfold the chairs they brought in with them.

One swimmer at the pool, a 13-year-old Rachel, made a spectacular splash before calling it quits for the day.

One family of four was making their early rounds in the late afternoon heat but graciously stopped for a photo op. Amber and Will Pence posed with their two daughters -- Lila and Makenna -- before moving on to fun activities for the family.

Mark Roberts, one of the vendors for the annual July Fourth event said, "I've been coming here for three years, but I have been operating my Kona Ice truck for eight years." Despite having to drive into town for a great distance to provide his service, Roberts keeps attending the event because he likes it.

A pro wrestler named Nature Boy Paul Lee was on hand to wrestle a nemesis named The Enforcer (a.k.a. Jerry Sampson). The show was free if you sat in the bleachers but $10 if you plopped down in the front row. But, your $10 tickets put you in the running for a raffle drawing.

The Freedom Festival July Fourth event would not have been complete without live music, a myriad of food choices and the occasional elected official or two populating the crowd.

Small Town Rumor Band put on an excellent show in the heat of the day.

And this year's event even had a chef worthy of Le Cordon Bleu. In fact, he graduated from the private for-profit Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Atlanta, which was under an approved licensing agreement with its namesake in Paris.

Chef Owens, a 2010 graduate of the school, began his catering business in 2012. For the festival event, Owens prepared a seasoned fish that no one believed was really fish since it did not taste or smell like it.

The chef offered up a smell reminiscent of some Grand Cayman Island seasoning. After today's event, it might be hard to book this cooking professional if his reality show possibility with a local station takes flight.

He said he was at work when he got the television station's call of interest, but he has not called them back yet.

Sporting a "God's Plan" T-shirt, the colorful chef explained his attire this way: "You see my shirt? It's serious, because I wouldn't be able to do this without him (God). A lot of people don't realize that though. They feel like 'I woke up like this (having talent or a unique skill).'"

"No," the chef said, "you didn't wake up like that. God woke you up."

And, on that note, the Freedom Festival concluded Friday night with a fireworks show stopper. This wasn't some bottle rockets and little firecrackers kind-of-show. This year's fireworks drew a crowd so large that finding a place to park along South Main Street became impossible. 

The good news is that the fireworks were so powerful and colorful that they could be seen as far away as the Food City parking lot, where some LaFayette residents had gathered to catch the show without fighting the traffic -- and others just popped in after the festival for the needed chocolate fix.

Jan Morris is assistant editor for the Catoosa County News in Ringgold, Ga., and the Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga.

Recommended for you