For more images of Freedom Fest '23, visit our Flickr page HERE.
FORT KNOX, Ky. — “How’s it going, Fort Knox?” said Allison Bray Ferguson, lead singer of The Grafenburg Band out of Elizabethtown. “Y’all ready to party?!?”
Judging by the thousands of people who showed up at Brooks Parade Field July 4, Fort Knox Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Community Recreation chief Christopher Dent said they apparently were. An hour-and-a-half into the five-hour Freedom Fest ‘23 party, over 2,000 had arrived to enjoy food and drinks, live music, cornhole and 14 inflatables.
Dent predicted that by the time the 30-plus minutes of nonstop fireworks would be lighting up the night sky, over 5,500 participated.
“The field will fill up when it gets closer to fireworks time,” said Dent. “People are ready to get out; I think we actually had a lot of [Cadet Summer Training] Family Day cadets who stayed after graduation day today, and their Families are out here getting experience what MWR and the Army’s all about.”
Dent said a year of planning goes into an Independence Day celebration every year. This one was no different.
“It’s a yearlong process,” said Dent. “We start the contracts in January, with the inflatables, and the band, and all the other stuff for the customers to enjoy.”
A big draw every year is a serious cornhole competition.
Sporting the team name Legendary, Larry Vaughn and Gavin Carey checked on the lineup prior to the start of matchups against the 14 other teams that showed for competition. They had a plan.
“I came here last year and came in third,” said Carey. “It was a fun experience for sure.”
He said he recruited Vaughn this year in the hope of taking top honors.
“We’re going to win it all,” said Vaughn. “No question.”
He made good on that promise as Legendary seized first place, followed by Terror Squad in second and Sandbags in third.
Dent said FMWR once alternated the cornhole competition every year between the July 4 celebration and Oktoberfest. They now plan to provide it at both celebrations because of its popularity.
Prior to the start of the fireworks, Maj. Gen. Johnny Davis, commanding general of U.S. Army Recruiting Command and Fort Knox, introduced the crowds to celebrate a tribute to the nation with a parade of the 50 state flags and five district and territory flags in front of the stage.
“How’s everybody doing?” said Davis.
The crowds cheered and applauded in response.
“Happy Birthday, America!” It’s so great to see everybody … this is well attended,” said Davis. “I just hope everybody’s having a great time because you know what, you are our nation’s strength, and why we’re here, and why we’re celebrating this wonderful birthday today for this wonderful nation.”
Davis praised the Garrison staff and various organizations involved in putting together the event.
Part of Dent’s FreedomFest planning relied on those units and organizations, including Soldiers from U.S. Army Human Resources Command provided the honor guard and assistance for setup and tear-down, U.S. Army Cadet Command provided Soldiers for the Salute to the Nation event, Directorate of Public Works wired the event for electricity and provided and serviced the porta-potties, and Directorate of Emergency Services pulled security, setup for on-scene response to potential fires from the fireworks, and emergency medical services manned an aid station.
The 4th Cavalry Multi-Functional Training Brigade’s family readiness group ran a fundraiser dunk tank and sold cotton candy, and FMWR not only hosted the event but also worked on setup and tear-down and provided the kids activity tents and food and beverages, said Dent; well worth the effort for the thousands of civilians from off post to celebrate freedom with those on post.
“All around, this was a great day,” said Dent. “It was a good opportunity for our two worlds to meet, and for us to show our gratitude to them for their support.”