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Leesville Daily Leader - Leesville, LA
  • Fort Polk FreedomFest features fun, fireworks, Trace Adkins

  •  Though Saturday brought with it intermittent showers and gray skies, Fort Polk's Freedom Fest 2010 was a resounding success, celebrating the soldiers who have preserved and still preserve America's freedom.


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  •  Though Saturday brought with it intermittent showers and gray skies, Fort Polk's Freedom Fest 2010 was a resounding success, celebrating the soldiers who have preserved and still preserve America's freedom.
    Thousands of people moseyed in and out during the festival, which took place from 3 to 10 p.m. on July 3, according to a Department of Emergency Services representative.
    Children skipped around with dyed hair—one of dozens of tents set up on the periphery of the Airfield offered face painting and temporary hair dying — and parents sat expectantly in folding chairs, many nibbling on funnel cakes and corn dogs from one of the many food trucks set up for the event.
    Any food that could be cooked on a stick could be had at Freedom Fest, including shrimp-on-a-stick, chicken-on-a-stick and gator-on-a-stick.
    "Chicken fried" bacon, Louisiana fare like fried green tomatoes and fried Oreos were also hawked by food vendors, as were crazy taters, catfish, crawfish, Cajun pork sandwiches and cheesecake burritos.
    Inflatables, sponsored by Picerne Military Housing,  were set up in a hanger, and more children than could be counted jumped and bounced on the air-filled toys, inflatables with such names as "Lagoon of Doom" and "Slippery Slope."
    Southern band MoJeaux took the stage at 5:45 p.m. and rocked out for an hour; hundreds of people stood by the stage—constructed by soldiers for the event—dancing and waving their hands.
    Following MoJeaux, Public Affairs Specialist Jeff England moderated the "Salute to the Nation," which included a 50-gun salute, one shot for each state in the union.
    After the salute, the Army's Silver Wings parachute team from Fort Benning, Ga. parachuted onto the airfield from an altitude of 5,000 feet.
    "Hunters from the sky, airborne all the way!" the moderator announced as the parachuters jumped.
    Brig. Gen. James Yarbrough, commander of the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk, took the stage before Adkins for a short speech.
    "Thanks for coming to the Home of Heroes, both civilians and Army, to celebrate Freedom Fest 2010. We've been preparing for four or five months. Soldiers built the stage and everything we see here. Give thanks to them and to the 10,000 soldiers on post, most of whom have served overseas and are proud to serve. Also keep in mind their families, who keep the home together and the community. All of us who walk down non-American streets think 'that might be me, but for the grace of God. But I'm an American and proud to be one!'
    "Hooah!"
    Country music star Trace Adkins returned to his roots at Freedom Fest. From Webster Parish in Louisiana, he studied at Louisiana Tech University and, according to Adkins, "dated a girl from Anacoco."
    "It didn't work out," he said.
    Page 2 of 2 - Adkins was a runner-up on NBC's "The Celebrity Apprentice."
    A long time supporter of the U.S. Military, Adkins has traveled overseas for two USO tours, performing for troops stationed in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan. He was honored in 2007 with the USO Merit Award in recognition of his dedication to assisting others through charitable works.
    "This is an exciting event," said Donita Santos, of Keithville, who was visiting family at Fort Polk. "I'm most looking forward to hearing Trace Adkins. I'm a huge fan."
    Most people attending the festival seemed to feel the same way.
    Though Adkins was the big name on the ticket, no one at Freedom Fest 2010 forgot that the reason for the festival was the celebration of the nation's freedom, so dearly bought by American blood over two hundred years ago.
    Before the Salute to the Nation, England announced to the crowd, "As you watch the red, white and blue fireworks light up the sky tonight, pause for a moment and remember those first patriots who created our nation, those patriots in uniform from the past who have kept our nation free and those thousands of patriots who are fighting the war on terrorism far from home tonight."
    Attendees were not shy in vocalizing what freedom means to them.
    "For me, freedom means the right to fight for our country, to preserve our nation's rights," said Anessa Naquin, of Rosepine.
    For Courtney Hughes, of Fort Polk, freedom means that "my children get to grow up in a country where they don't need to worry about hunger or famine. They can also enjoy the fact that their dad is a soldier and fights for us."
    Her son piped in: for him, freedom means "lots of naps."
    Frank Jarrett, of Missouri, said "Freedom means everything to me. There are people who have never fought overseas and don't know what it's like and can't comprehend how lucky we are for the things we take for granted every day. I feel blessed to live here."
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