Freedom

The Songcuan family tailgates prior to the fireworks.

BY MARC HARGETT

Record Gazette

The mid-morning shaking on Thursday did not discourage visitors from attending the annual Freedom Festival at Stewart Park in Beaumont.

Regular attendees to the annual event were not deterred from the festivities of the day and the evening’s fireworks display.

The celebration of the 243rd birthday of the United States was wrought with music, vendors, swimming and barbeque.

The party, hosted by the city of Beaumont, welcomed more than 5,000 visitors throughout the day with many more who simply came to view the fireworks.

The mayor heaped praise on city staff for all of their hard work in preparing and serving during the event.

“I have received a tremendous amount of positive response for our celebration event,” Beaumont Mayor Julio Martinez said. “Many thanked the city for providing the event at no cost and were very positive about the entertainment as well.”

Two bands played the venue including the Southern California country band Texas Runaway lead by Brie Bones.

Their hour-and-a-half set rocked songs from their album “Flies N’ Honey.”

Freedom

Mia Miller sells lemonade at Freedom Fest.

“I love this band. I love country music,” said one Orange County woman who identified herself as Lady P. Funk. She was enjoying the show with her family. “This band has it going on.”

The B.O.E. Band, the closing band, hails from the lounge of the San Manuel Casino and played many classics from many genres of music, hence their name Best of Everything Band.

The celebratory sounds of the bands could be heard for several blocks in either direction.

In the Market Night and Kids Zone there were several vendors touting their wares and crafts. Many of the attendees lined up at the frozen treats vendors.

Members of Venture Church in Beaumont were also on hand in the Kids Zone underneath a yellow and white-stripped circus tent.

The team hosted kids of all ages while they enjoyed crafts, backyard games and a pie-eating contest.

“We decided to provide a bunch of fun activities that don’t cost kids and their families anything,” said Rob Peterson, lead pastor of Venture Church. “It is a great way to be a blessing to the community.”

The church has been providing the family-friendly Kids Zone for the past four years.

Freedom

Troop members of Scouts BSA Pack 70 sell beef jerky as a fundraiser.

But vendors were not only relegated to the market night area.

Outside of the main event in Stewart Park there were young entrepreneurs posted on street corners hocking candy, lemonade and glow bracelets.

One young lady, 11 year-old Mia Miller of Beaumont, has been setting up her lemonade stand for the last four years to raise money for school supplies.

“I like seeing happy customer faces,” the youthful entpreneur said. “They like how my lemonade tastes.”

By the end of the evening, she had earned $31 to go toward her school supplies budget.

Another pair of capitalists, siblings Savannah and Matthew Sontoski of Beaumont, were on hand to sell their assortment of refreshments of sodas and homegrown fruits and vegetables.

They have been setting up their dad-built stand for the last two Freedom Festivals.

The self-made siblings had seen a lot of foot traffic, however by early evening, had yet made enough to pay back their investment for supplies.

“We are still working to pay back the loan,” said Savannah, speaking of the investment her parents made into the stand.

Many of the attenders to the festival decided to make a day of the event and actually parked in the field just north of the main stage area.

The Songcuan family had been there most of the day and had set up a barbeque where they grilled carne asada and other delicious meats.

It was the family’s ninth year of tailgating at the event.

“This is a great time for the kids. Everything is great,” Lilian Songcuan said. “And, we have a great view.”

As the evening grew into night, so did the anticipation of the fireworks spectacular.

Spectators lined the streets, some in camping chairs and others sitting in the back of pickup trucks.

One man was sitting in a lawn chair with his children on a blanket in front him. This was his family’s annual firework viewing location.

This was their seventh year in the same spot

“We have been coming to these fireworks for at least 20 years,” Beaumont resident Leo Oshaben said. “You are bending your neck to look straight up at the fireworks.”

Another family, which lives directly across the street from where the ordnance were launched from, was hosting a watch party in their front yard.

The Diaz family has lived in the home for two years.

“It’s beautiful. It’s like they are coming down right on you,” said the homeowner, Levi Diaz.

The daylong celebration of freedom culminated with a 25-minute display of pyrotechnics.

As the community sat with eyes trans­­fixed heavenward, beautiful explosions sending showers of sparks and bright light adorned the sky.

All throughout the crowds gasps of awe were heard while patriotic music played from the speakers.

When the grand finale launched a barrage of colorful projectiles into the air, a loud round of applause burst forth from the crowd cheering the freedom those fireworks represent.

City officials only reported two incidents during the day: a lost toddler who was reunited with her parents within a few minutes and a vendor in the market night area who was selling without a license and was asked to leave.

Staff Writer Marc Hargett may be reached at mhargett@recordgazette.net , or by calling (951) 849-4586 x117.

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