By GARTH SNOW
LEO-CEDARVILLE — Freedom Festival returns to Riverside Gardens on June 28 and 29, bringing another chance to paddle the neighboring St. Joseph River.
The Leo-Cedarville town park at 14701 Schwartz Road occupies the east bank of the river on the east edge of town.
Coordinator Barb Smith, with the Leo-Cedarville Foundation, said the festival proudly carries the name Freedom Festival although it is no longer celebrated over the Fourth of July.
“This is the 19th year for the fireworks festival,” Smith said. “It used to be called the Fourth of July Festival when it first started years ago but it has been the Freedom Festival for the last few years.”
“We want to honor the freedom we all have to live in the nice town that we do and to honor the veterans who have allowed us to have the freedom,” she explained. “So it’s a patriotic theme celebrating our ability to live free.”
Smith said the festival has the popular entertainment, of course, the Friday night cruise-in, and the Saturday morning 5k. There’s more, though. “This is the second year that Flow the St. Joe is done by the St. Joe Watershed Initiative, where you register at the landing at Riverside and then you’re taken up to Spencerville to flow the St. Joe down to Hurshtown Reservoir where they have lunch and some educational presentations about the St. Joe,” she said. “Then they paddle and flow back to Riverside.”
Flow the St. Joe starts at 9 a.m. and the tour returns to the starting point about 2 p.m.
Tickets will be available soon via Eventbrite. Registration is $29 for adults and $15 for people under 18. Ticket price includes transportation from the sign-in location at the boat ramp at Leo-Cedarville to the boat launch at Spencerville, an event T-shirt and lunch at the Hurshtown Reservoir.
Adventurers may bring their own boat or rent a canoe or kayak from Earth Adventures Unlimited on West Main Street in Fort Wayne or from Fort Wayne Outfitters.
Visit sjrwi.org for details.
Smith said festival admission is free. Northeast Fire and EMS will direct parking. The cost is $3, which supports the emergency service agency.
Food trucks will offer their specialties for sale. “But the entertainment and children’s activities are free, a free Freedom Festival,” Smith said.
The weekend will kick off with the Up the Creek Cruise-In at 5 p.m. Friday, featuring an evening of music by Joe Justice Live and a collector car show.
Saturday activities begin at 8 a.m. with the Leo-Cedarville Freedom 5k. This is an event for everyone, with a 5k run/walk and a 300-meter Kids Fun Run. Get details at the Leo-Cedarville Freedom 5k page on Facebook.
Saturday also brings the Downtown Leo Artisan Market. Local businesses and artists will host an outdoor market on Main Street and S.R. 1 in downtown Leo in the afternoon.
Smith said Saturday evening entertain follows the festival’s theme of “Freedom, Family and Patriotism.”
The opening band will be J.D. Cable, who served a two-year tour of duty with the Army’s 5th Infantry Division Band. Cable was also selected for the six-piece US Army Express All-Star Show Band and All Army soldier show which performs for troops stationed in Europe, Korea and across the continental United States.
Headliner Matt Williams performs before the fireworks display.
After returning from his third deployment in 2010 as a staff sergeant in the Army, Williams took on the challenge of PTSD and depression. He found an outlet for emotions in music.
“Since both J.D. Cable and Matt Williams tour throughout the United States we feel fortunate that, with help from our friend, Jonathan Wilder, we can bring these entertainers to our families and friends, our veteran community and the Freedom Festival,” Smith said.
The fireworks display will begin at dusk.
For details and updates, follow the 2019 Leo-Cedarville Freedom Foundation page on Facebook.