The Vets Freedom Fest on April 29, 2023, at the Putnam County Fairgrounds was a great event. We were able to feed over 400 veterans and their families. We wanted to thank them for their service and sacrifice on our behalf. According to the U.S. Census Bureau about 6,630 Veterans live in Putnam County.
There was a threat of rain and stormy weather, but it only began to rain after 3pm. Door prizes were awarded, live music was enjoyed, the bounce house and popcorn were enjoyed by the children. If you missed this event, please try to make plans now for next year. It’s always held the last Saturday in April.
The event is always free. Proceeds from meals to non-veterans go directly to benefit local veterans through the American Legion and their programs.
Everyone is invited and encouraged to attend to help us salute our veterans. “We don’t know them all, but we owe them all”.
Special thanks go to our Platinum sponsors: Seminole Electric, Southern Air, Johnson Overturf Funeral homes and Nicholson Ice, for donating to give back to our veterans. All donations whether financial or physical are greatly appreciated. See all of our fine sponsors here: https://vetsfreedomfest.org/sponsors or visit our Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/VetsFreedomFest
Origin of Freedom Fest
Our festival to recognize and honor veterans came as an outgrowth of the annual “Festival of Freedom” in Elkton, VA that honors veterans by giving them a free dinner.
Ed Hager, who does a lot of cooking for Evangelical United Methodist Church in Elkton was talking with his pastor, David Vaughan, when they heard the phrase, “We don’t know them all, but we owe them all.” They decided that they would start an event to honor veterans and provide them and their families a free meal as a way of thanking them for their service.
Because of family connections to the church in Virginia, my wife Beatrice, and myself along with Pastor Willie McKinnon, traveled to Elkton to volunteer at their event. We worked and became inspired by the response of the veterans that attended.
After hearing of this, the congregation of Hillcrest Baptist Church of Palatka, decided to start a similar project for veterans in Putnam County.
After several months of planning, fundraising, and gathering food and supplies, on April 28, 2018, the first Freedom Fest was held at the Putnam County Fair and Expo facility. All attending veterans and their families were given free meals of Bar-B-Que pork or beef with all the trimmings.
There were singers to entertain and inspire, a street-rod and classic car display, and children’s activities with sno-cones, fire engines, and a jump house. Drawings were held and donated prizes were given away.
More importantly, There were information booths set up by local veterans service organizations to bring information about opportunities for services and benefits to them.
Thanks to the sponsors donations, and meals sold to the public, we have been able to gift over $19,000 to the American Legion to help them construct wheelchair ramps and other projects for veterans. We plan to make this an annual event to give something back to our veterans, to thank them for the what they have done for our country.
Freedom Fest, Chairman