By Amanda Crabtree
Orem’s Carol Walker has not missed the Freedom Festival celebration for more than 50 years — she first attended at the age of six months. Growing up, Carol dressed in patriotic clothes to watch the parade — always along with her 26 cousins and grandpa — and she danced in the Stadium of Fire.
“I love the Freedom Festival,” Carol says. “It has taught me the importance of country, of patriotism, and of celebrating our freedom every year.”
Now that Carol has grandchildren of her own, the Fourth of July is a chance for her to continue the traditions of her childhood — by staking out a spot on the parade route, sleeping over with her grandchildren and attending the Stadium of Fire.
Carol Walker has attended the Freedom Festival her entire life, and now she enjoys sharing the tradition with her grandchildren.
The Fourth of July means balloons for Bill Talbot, who has overseen the Balloon Fest for the past 25 years.
Bill was looking for an opportunity to give back to the community and was asked to chair the very first balloon festival — even though he knew nothing about balloons. Now, Bill knows all about balloons — he knows that Fox Field is the perfect location for take-off and landing, that balloon pilots have to pay attention to the winds from the canyons and Utah Lake because wind is the only thing that can steer them, and that 30 balloons is the ideal number for the festival.
“I know that I’m helping bring something amazing to the community,” Bill says. “This is pretty special to me, and I hope the community feels the same way.”
“My family wouldn’t miss the Freedom Festival for anything,” says Kerry Patterson, who has participated in the festivities since he came to Provo more than 20 years ago to get his master’s degree from BYU. His children have grown up and moved away, but they come home every year for the parade, 5K, family barbecue, bocce ball, slip ‘n’ slide, and Stadium of Fire. Though every year has been special for Kerry, his favorite was 1992 when the family watched the Beach Boys live at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
This is the place on July 4
Years ago Brian Neff and his family moved to Utah from San Francisco and were looking for something to do on the Fourth of July — now they can’t imagine being anywhere else but University Avenue for the Freedom Festival parade. Over the past seven years, Brian’s family traditions have grown tremendously — at least 40 people sleep over at their spot the night before the parade, they feed their neighbors dinner buffet-style, and friends play guitar and violin for entertainment.
“The parade lets me be part of an event that is bigger than me,” Brian says. “To have all these people come together for a few hours to watch the parade is very patriotic.” UV