PROVO — America’s Freedom Festival at Provo is the latest in a string of summer events postponed to 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but a fireworks show in honor of essential workers and first responders battling the virus will still be held.
“The safety and health of our guests is always the first priority at any Freedom Festival event, period,” said Jim Evans, executive director of America’s Freedom Festival, in a statement. “Even in a typical year that’s the prevailing theme. But with so many of our loved ones at risk from this illness, including so many wonderful military veterans, we have to be especially careful this year.”
Evans said organizers are excited to offer a “safe” and “big” free fireworks show on July 4th as a “thank you to Utah’s brave essential workers” and for a community that’s supported the festival for so many years. According to a news release, it will be visible to those wishing to social distance.
More information on the show will be forthcoming.
America’s Freedom Festival at Provo is a nonprofit foundation with the mission of teaching and honoring U.S. values like family, freedom and country. The festival holds more than 25 events throughout the year, with the largest set in July — expansive work that utilizes thousands of volunteers. Events postponed until 2021 include the Stadium of Fire, the Grand Parade, the Balloon Fest, Freedom Days and all other events that had been scheduled for this summer.
Spring events like student art, essay, speech and teacher contests are all ongoing in a virtual format. Submission deadlines have been extended to May 18.
The festival’s signature event, the Stadium of Fire, is held at Brigham Young University’s LaVell Edwards Stadium before an audience of 50,000 people — not conducive to social distancing.
Steve Shallenberger, chairman of the Freedom Festival board of trustees, said next year’s Stadium of Fire will be the 40th anniversary and the biggest and best yet.
Orem resident Isaac Thomas has been going to festival events with his family for more than 20 years. An Air Force veteran, Thomas said the festival “sums up the freedom and liberties that we enjoy” and is a good opportunity to talk to his children about what it means to serve in the military and serve a country.
“It really gives a good history of our country and what it’s all about,” he said. “It honors the military — all branches, and I enjoy that.”
Also canceled in July is the Days of ’47 celebration, Bountiful Handcart Days and the Deseret News Marathon, as well as Salt Lake’s annual arts festival in June. Organizers for Ogden Pioneer Days, another major July event, have yet to reach a decision on whether it will be held.
Event organizers said that canceling the respective celebrations was a decision not taken lightly and that first priority in determining what to do was given to local officials’ public health guidelines.
Still, the news was met with some disappointment from the community as the celebrations have long been fixtures in the area.
The Bountiful Handcart Days has been going on for 70 years. Citing “unprecedented circumstances,” organizers announced most of the events’ cancellation on April 15 because of the constraints social distancing restrictions place on organizing activities.
Officials said they hope restrictions will be eased by July, which would enable them to still have a performance from the band Joshua Creek and a free fireworks show.